Fighting substance use through awareness and peer education

Vaping is rampant among L.A. studentsAccording to the CDC, more than 30% of L.A. County high school students have reported using e-cigarettes. 

The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health is working with partner Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and funder California Community Foundation to educate and prevent substance use  among Los Angeles Unified students. 

“This is one of our most urgent initiatives,” said Robert Renteria, program manager for The L.A. Trust. “Whether it’s vaping tobacco or using marijuana, alcohol, methamphetamine or opioids, substances are a real threat to our student community —one that’s likely to have grown during the pandemic.” 

The Wellness & Adolescent Substance Use Prevention Project (WASUP) substance use prevention partnership includes Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) training and peer education by student health advocates from The L.A. Trust’s Student Advisory Boards. 

WASUP training for school-based healthcare professionals included a series of webinars discussing vaping and SBIRT. The  SBIRT project  — designed to increase the screening tool’s utilization in L.A. Unified Wellness Center clinics — was deployed at five such clinics, reaching nearly 2,700 students. 

Peer education 

 A toolkit for conducting a preliminary scan of the substance use situation at schools — Conducting a SBIRT Environmental Scan at Your School-Based Health Center — was published last year by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and The L.A. Trust. 

The toolkit reflects lessons learned by The L.A. Trust and CHLA during a multiyear initiative to integrate SBIRT into five school-based health centers across South Los Angeles. Funding for this project was provided by the California Community Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.”  

WASUP includes student health advocates and Student Advisory Board members like former Manual Arts High School student Melissa Riaz Reynolds, who is now in college.  

She said her favorite part of being a WASUP advocate was “presenting to the leadership class about underage drinking and making safe decisions.  

It helped a lot with my personal life as most students are curious and like to experiment, so I am constantly surrounded by drugs or people who abuse drugs,” she said. “The WASUP project taught me how to handle certain situations and protect myself and those around me.”  

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