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Association of
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  • Friday, March 31, 2017 7:36 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    Athletics and Mental Health Physical activity is known to not only improve physical health but mental health as well.  Studies show that the release of endorphins during exercise interact with receptors in the brain that reduce the perception of pain and that they trigger positive feelings in the body. However, this doesn’t mean that student athletes are without mental health struggles.  In fact, quite the contrary when one considers the pressures many of them face in order to compete. “Given the interrelationship between the physical and mental, it might be helpful to think of student-athletes with mental health problems as “injured” — just as you would of a student-athlete who has a physical or medical problem.” (WebMD)       

    Student athletes can suffer from many different mental health or substance abuse issues.  Student athletes can be at risk because pressures to succeed can trigger mental health problems. 
    The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has published a handbook entitled, Managing Student-Athlete Mental Health Issues. This tool helps those who work with student athletes be able to identify general signs and symptoms that may indicate a possible mental health concerns.  The handbook contains explanations about the effects on performance and sport participation, a suicide prevention plan and recommendations for individuals at risk.  Coaches should be involved in and trained to identify mental health problems in students.  SAP teams can be proactive in suggesting that their schools provide training for all coaching staff.  
    Substance Abuse and Student Athletes Student athletes are under great pressure to excel on their sport(s) and in school.  It is important for coaching staff as well as school staff to be educated on observable behaviors associated with possible drug and alcohol use and abuse.  This may be especially important if student athletes have had an injury or operation.  Student with injuries are vulnerable to misuse of prescribed medications.  
    According to a study published in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse reveals high school athletes are one of the groups most at risk for getting hooked on pain pills (U.S. News and World Report).  The study indicates that teen athletes are more likely to use drugs than their peers.  Teen male athletes are more likely to use and abuse drugs than female athletes.  Also, football players reported more drug and alcohol use than other sports.  Since pain medication can cause euphoria and give the user a temporary escape from stress, teen athletes are particularly susceptible to abuses.  The teenage brain is in a critical stage of development and can make them particularly vulnerable.
    According to an article from the NCAA by Kolodney (2015) the increase in opioid prescribing has been associated with parallel increases in opioid addiction and overdose deaths.  For more information on these statistics click here.    
    SAP Teams should be vigilant to the possibility of a student athlete’s vulnerabilities following injuries and in case of possible head injury make sure appropriate referrals to medical consultations are made.  SAP Teams should make a referral to their local BrainSTEPS program, which provides guidance to schools on how to best assist student with issues following a head injury.   
    SAP Teams need to take special care in looking at the multiple strengths and vulnerabilities associated with student athletes.  Teams may need to branch out to even greater collaborations and referrals, including strong partnerships with their school’s athletic department, coaches, and medical professionals.
    Citations: https://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/2007_managing_mental_health_0.pdf http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1 http://brainconnection.brainhq.com/2000/06/03/brain-injuries-high-school-athletes-at-risk/ http://www.ncaa.org/health-and-safety/sport-science-institute/cautious-opioid-prescribing-college-athletes http://www.lockthecabinet.com/news/high-school-athletes-and-prescription-painkiller-misuse/ http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2014/08/04/abuse-of-prescription-painkillers-on-the-rise-amonghigh-school-athletes-survey 

  • Monday, February 13, 2017 1:18 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    We are pleased to announce that Dr. McCormick will be co-presenting with Dr. Garbely on Sunday during Plenary Session 1 &2. The two gentlemen are highly regarded in the addiction world and what an honor it is for them to be coming to PASAP.

    Michael A. McCormick, D.O. received his undergraduate degree from St. Joseph’s University and then graduated from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his general rotating internship at PCOM/City Avenue Hospital and then finished a five year General Surgery residency at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, PA. Michael then joined Avalon Surgical, P.C. in Sheffield, AL before purchasing his own surgical practice, which he grew for the next seven years, during which time he was Chief of Surgery at Helen Keller Hospital. In 2013 Michael, opened and still runs Express Med of King of Prussia. Michael was always drawn to addiction medicine and he started his fellowship in addiction medicine at Caron in August 2015 and became staff physician in September 2016. Michael is a recipient of the Next Generation Award for fellows in addiction medicine concentrating on adolescents, awarded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the American Board of Addiction Medicine Foundation. As part of his award, his concentration is on teaching SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment) to physicians, psychologists, counselors, nurses and other service professionals. Dr. McCormick provides care to Caron’s Healthcare Professionals Unit and  Detox Unit. 

  • Thursday, January 19, 2017 1:35 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    What is Carfentanil?

    Carfentanil is an extremely potent fentanyl analog (synthetic opioid). Designed in 1974, carfentanil was previously used exclusively for veterinary use with large animals and is not approved for use in humans, as it has been shown to be 100 times more potent than fentanyl in animal studies.

    Carfentanil and other fentanyl analogues present a serious risk to public safety, first responder, medical, treatment and laboratory personnel. These substances can come in several forms, including powder, blotter paper, tablets, patch and spray. Some forms can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled.

    Signs and symptoms of exposure to carfentanil are consistent with opioid toxicity and include:

    • pinpoint pupils;
    • respiratory depression (shallow or absent breathing);
    • depressed mental status (dizziness, lethargy, sedation or loss of consciousness);
    • gastrointestinal irritation (nausea, vomiting); and
    • cardiovascular failure (weak or absent pulses and cold, clammy skin).

    What should responding personnel do if they encounter this substance?

    First responders should use caution and utilize appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling carfentanil due to the drug’s ability to be absorbed through the skin. As a result, carfentanil could pose a grave danger to law enforcement and other first responders encountering the drug in an emergency medical situation.

    Exercise extreme caution. Only properly trained and outfitted law enforcement professionals should handle any substance suspected to contain fentanyl or a fentanyl-related compound. If encountered, contact the appropriate officials within your agency. [3]

    Be aware of any sign of exposure. Symptoms include: respiratory depression or arrest, drowsiness, disorientation, sedation, pinpoint pupils, and clammy skin. The onset of these symptoms usually occurs within minutes of exposure.

    Seek IMMEDIATE medical attention. Carfentanil and other fentanyl-related substances can work very quickly. If inhaled, move the victim to fresh air. If ingested and the victim is conscious, wash out the victim’s eyes and mouth with cool water.

    Be ready to administer multiple doses of naloxone in the event of exposure. Naloxone is an antidote for opioid overdose. Immediately administering naloxone can reverse an overdose of carfentanil, fentanyl, or other opioids, although multiple doses of naloxone may be required. Continue to administer a dose of naloxone every 2-3 minutes until the individual is breathing on his/her own for at least 15 minutes.

    Remember that carfentanil can resemble powdered cocaine or heroin. If you suspect the presence of carfentanil or any synthetic opioid, do not take samples or otherwise disturb the substance, as this could lead to accidental exposure. Rather, secure the substance and follow approved transportation procedures.

    Any questions or concerns regarding these recommendations should be directed to the PADOH (1-877-PA-HEALTH) or your local health department.

    Categories of Health Alert messages:

    Health Alert: conveys the highest level of importance; warrants immediate action or attention.

    Health Advisory: provides important information for a specific incident or situation; may not require immediate action.

    Health Update: provides updated information regarding an incident or situation; no immediate action necessary.

  • Friday, December 16, 2016 3:13 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    MAHS-TV Students wrote, produced, and directed this PSA on the effects of Heroin use.

    Speak Out to Save Lives! Public Service Awareness Video Contest 2016-2017 School Year

    Sponsored by the FBI Pittsburgh Field Office H.O.P.E. (Heroin Outreach Prevention and Education) Initiative


  • Friday, December 16, 2016 3:05 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    The Drug Enforcement Administration and Discovery Education Invite Teens to Create Original Public Service Announcements on the Dangers of Opioid Misuse for Chance to Win up to a $10,000 Scholarship and Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the DEA Training Academy at Quantico

    Washington, D.C. and Silver Spring, MD (December 12, 2016) – Prescription opioid misuse has reached epidemic levels ― with hospitalizations spiking among children and teens for opioid painkiller overdoses in recent years.[i]  That’s why the United States Drug Enforcement Administration<https://www.dea.gov/index.shtml> (DEA), DEA Educational Foundation<http://www.deaeducationalfoundation.org/about-us/> and Discovery Education<http://www.discoveryeducation.com/>, the leading provider of digital content and professional development for K-12 classrooms, are launching the Operation Prevention Video Challenge<http://www.operationprevention.com/video-challenge> that gives students the power to send a message to their peers about the dangers of opioid misuse.

    For the first time, the Operation Prevention Video Challenge invites teens across the country to create a unique 30-60 second public service announcement, aimed to reach other teens about this widespread issue. The question: “If your friends were going to watch ONE video that made them think twice about misusing prescription opioids, what would that video be?”

    The challenge is part of a joint nationwide education initiative called Operation Prevention that educates students about the science behind addiction and its impact on the brain and body. Available at no cost, the program’s resources help initiate lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom.

    “The video challenge is a great way for students to be creative and to reach their peers,” said DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg.  “They can illustrate the science of addiction and the effect opioids have on the brain and body to their friends ― and be seen and heard in ways that adults cannot ― and help tackle this epidemic.”

    A panel of judges from Discovery Education and the DEA, as well as community leaders, educators, and communications experts, will select the winners for three DEA Educational Foundation scholarships. The grand prize winner will receive $10,000, the second place winner will receive $5,000, and the third place winner will receive $1,000.

    One People’s Choice winner will also be selected through public vote in April 2017 and will win a trip provided by the DEA for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of DEA agent training at the DEA’s Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Winning PSAs will also be featured on-air and across DEA’s digital and social media platforms.

    Students must be at least 13-years-old and enrolled in 9th through 12th grade. Video entries will be evaluated based on their creativity, content, persuasiveness and overall effective communication. No violent, dangerous, or illegal behavior in creating the Entry Video is allowed. Teens can register and submit their entries today through March 28, 2017 at  https://www.operationprevention.com/video-challenge. <http://www.operationprevention.com/video-challenge>

    "Through our important grassroots programs, The DEA Educational Foundation has seen time and time again the power of peer-to-peer messaging and influence. We believe the video contest will not only bring to light the serious topic of the opioid epidemic in our communities, but will also help educate youth about the dangers of these drugs through the teen voice; one in which they will strongly relate,” said Bill Alden, Chairman and CEO of the DEA Educational Foundation. “We are thrilled to do our part in supporting America’s youth in bringing them critical and timely information and by helping them to make positive and healthy decisions ultimately leading to successful and fulfilling lives."

  • Friday, October 21, 2016 3:28 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    October 17, 2016

    Dear Pennsylvania School Personnel:

    We are extremely pleased to announce the 5th Annual PSA Contest for Youth Suicide Prevention! Our previous contests have been huge successes with powerful and encouraging messages communicated by youth around the state of Pennsylvania. In fact, the 2016 winners were honored at the Harrisburg Senators, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games and had their PSAs displayed on the jumbo monitors for all to see! Additionally, the 2016 winners were invited to speak at a mental health rally in Harrisburg during Capital Day. We’ve even had a 2015 video entry exhibited on an international website focused on youth suicide warning signs. Since youth often impact one another more significantly than many efforts we can make as adults on young lives, the Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative (PAYSPI) is once again utilizing this power to engage youth in developing public service announcements focused on suicide awareness and prevention.

    Many of you have been focusing on suicide prevention in your school districts lately as a result of the recent Act 71 of 2014 legislation. We have seen over the past four years how students have used this PSA contest to learn more about youth suicide prevention in their planning process, as well as educate their peers through their exceptional work. With national and local rates continuing to slowly rise, more youth than ever are talking about suicide, and we hope that your school will join us in the prevention conversation.

    Additionally, this year offers the students an opportunity to create a PSA for a national suicide prevention campaign. Based on research on what people can do to keep others safe, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline created the #BeThe1To campaign. The Lifeline is looking for PSAs which illustrate this messaging. See the rules for submission on our website listed below for more details.

    We are seeking your support to disseminate information about this important step to reducing lives lost to youth suicide in your schools. Please share the information with your administrators and then spread the word to students to get involved! The attached flyer contains details about the PSA contest and information on locating the official rules and an entry form. There are a few important details that have direct relevance to your staff:

    • Each school may only submit one entry per category. We encourage you to consider a local challenge within your school to help identify the best submission per category.
    • Each submission must be reviewed by a mentor at the school. This may be a teacher, guidance counselor, school nurse, school administrator, or SAP team coordinator. We simply ask the mentors to provide some guidance on appropriateness of content (there are national media guidelines with links in the official rules), and then sign off on the application once the final product is approved.
    • All submissions must be received by January 6, 2017 to be considered for the statewide contest.
    • Students and the broader public will vote for the winning submission in each category. Voting will happen online from January 27 –February 13, via the PAYSPI website.

    All of the details about the contest, including official rules, a downloadable pdf of the flyer, the application form, as well as help with guiding the students in their messaging, are available on our website, www.payspi.org/psa/2017psa. You may also view previous winners by visiting our main page, www.payspi.org/psa.

    PAYSPI is a multi-system public-private partnership of individuals representing numerous stakeholders in Pennsylvania focused on reducing suicide in our communities. It consists of clinicians, school personnel, researchers, prevention experts, family members who have lost loved ones to suicide, and representatives from many state Departments and agencies, such as the Department of Education, Department of Health, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. We invite you to check out our webpage, www.payspi.org, to learn more about the organization.

    We are excited to receive a record number of submissions this year and are eager to see how Pennsylvanian youth use their creativity to once again develop exceptional and powerful messages to help reduce youth suicide in the Commonwealth.

    Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Rose Milani at 215-503-6456 or rose.milani@jefferson.edu.


    Matthew B. Wintersteen, Ph.D.
    Co-Chair, Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative
    Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior
    Thomas Jefferson University
    Philadelphia, PA

  • Wednesday, September 21, 2016 1:40 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)


  • Saturday, August 27, 2016 8:47 AM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    On Aug. 21, 2016, Judge Reed O’Connor, a U.S. District Court judge for the Northern District of Texas, issued a preliminary injunction in the suit brought against the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education May 13, 2016 guidance letters on transgender student rights under Title IX. PSBA has released an analysis of the developments in this case. See the website for the full article to get more information on the following:

    •    The order and underlying reasoning on merits 
    •    Nationwide application 
    •    What this injunction means legally for PA school districts 
    •    PSBA’s recommendation for what school districts should do for now 

    If and when the injunction is modified, PSBA will keep you informed.

  • Tuesday, August 23, 2016 9:02 AM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    Months after the Obama administration advised school districts that transgender students should be given access to bathrooms based on their gender identity, a federal judge in Texas has blocked the guidance from going into effect — for now.

    NPR.org., Aug. 22, 2016

    Full story

  • Wednesday, August 17, 2016 12:38 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    Article from the Washington Post

    By Colby Itkowitz

    August 17, 2016 at 6:00 AM

    Katie Shoener, pictured here at age 20. (Courtesy: Kelly Lamond)

    Only hours after he learned his only daughter was dead, Ed Shoener sat down to write her obituary. It felt like one way he could still take care of his little girl.

    He and his wife, Ruth, had been steeling themselves for this day since Katie’s first hospitalization more than 11 years ago. He knew immediately why the police were at his doorstep the night of Aug. 3. Yet nothing prepares a parent for the moment they learn the details about how their child ended her life.

    But if Shoener, a deacon at his Catholic church, learned anything watching his daughter’s long struggle with mental illness, it’s that the disease that plagued her is tragically misunderstood. The last thing he could do for his daughter was try to help others understand.

    So, with stunning candor, he began her obituary like this:

    Kathleen ‘Katie’ Marie Shoener, 29, fought bipolar disorder since 2005, but she finally lost the battle on Wednesday to suicide in Lewis Center, Ohio.

    Then, overwhelmed by the fatherly pull to protect her, he wrote this:

    So often people who have a mental illness are known as their illness. People say that “she is bipolar” or “he is schizophrenic.” Over the coming days as you talk to people about this, please do not use that phrase. People who have cancer are not cancer, those with diabetes are not diabetes. Katie was not bipolar — she had an illness called bipolar disorder — Katie herself was a beautiful child of God. The way we talk about people and their illnesses affects the people themselves and how we treat the illness. In the case of mental illness there is so much fear, ignorance and hurtful attitudes that the people who suffer from mental illness needlessly suffer further. Our society does not provide the resources that are needed to adequately understand and treat mental illness. In Katie’s case, she had the best medical care available, she always took the cocktail of medicines that she was prescribed and she did her best to be healthy and manage this illness – and yet – that was not enough. Someday a cure will be found, but until then, we need to support and be compassionate to those with mental illness, every bit as much as we support those who suffer from cancer, heart disease or any other illness. Please know that Katie was a sweet, wonderful person that loved life, the people around her – and Jesus Christ.

    “There’s nothing rational about this illness”

    It was spring of Katie’s senior year in high school when she first attempted suicide. She was a brilliant student, finishing second in her class. She played soccer, musical instruments and had a close group of girlfriends. She dreamed of going to New York University, which, while only 120 miles from the scrappy blue-collar town of Scranton where she’d grown up, felt a world away.

    A young Katie with her parents Ed and Ruth Shoener. (Photo courtesy: The Shoeners)

    Her parents were away the weekend Katie swallowed a handful of pills. They didn’t know she had been quietly suffering, though they found out later that she’d been cutting herself for about a year, covering the scars on her wrists with stacks of bracelets.

    In their small, closeknit community little is kept secret, and everyone at church and at school knew Katie had tried to kill herself. And in those early days, with the diagnosis of bipolar still raw, the Shoeners carried the shame too often associated with mental illness.

    “No one came up to me or Ruth and said, ‘I’m so sorry.’ If she’d gotten in an accident they would have said kind things, but now everyone knew and no one looked at us, like it was a character flaw,” Shoener said in an interview. “We felt shamed, we felt like maybe we weren’t good parents. They didn’t know what to say. As a society we don’t know how to talk to each other about this. We don’t have a language for how to talk about mental illness.”

    Around 5 million Americans, or 2.6 percent of the population, have a bipolar disorder diagnosis, but only around half seek treatment in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

    Katie was one who did. The rest of her life was a cycle of therapy, medications and hospital stays. She would stabilize and resume her otherwise full and ambitious life, only to have her bipolar resurface.

    “Everyone loved Katie, if you met Katie you couldn’t help but love her. She was vibrant,” Shoener said, his voice catching on the adjective. “There’s nothing rational about this illness. Something in her mind told her she was a terrible person and everybody hated her.”

    Katie’s childhood best friend, Kelly Lamond, said Katie was always looking for ways to make others feel special. She was her friends’ biggest cheerleader. She was “an amazing human,” Lamond said.

    “She woke up every day fighting to be happy,” Lamond said. “It breaks my heart. It makes my heart heavy that she carried that every day.”

    Katie’s 26th birthday dinner with her closest girlfriends. L to R: Katie Shoener, Rosetta Walsh, Kelly Lamond, Christina Gammaitoni, Michelle Conaboy and Molly Hedden. (Courtesy: Kelly Lamond)

    “Katie was not bipolar”

    Katie moved to Columbus, Ohio to earn her MBA at Ohio State University and stayed there for a job. But after another breakdown, she quit, telling the company they deserved a better employee. Without a job, she’d sit alone in her apartment and ruminate. As is the curse of mental illness, her mind was an endless cycle of irrational and negative self-talk. Her parents urged her to move back to Scranton, but she said going home would feel like failing, like falling short of her dreams.

    But recently, she had decided to make a change. She planned to move across the country to live with her older brother and his family in San Diego. She adored her nieces and nephews. Her family and friends were hopeful that she’d finally find peace in the temperate climate and proximity to the kids.

    But two weeks ago, on a Wednesday evening, Katie sat in her car in a remote spot in her apartment parking lot and shot herself. The police told the Shoeners they’d found just a brief note: “This life is not for me,” Katie wrote. She added, “Take care of Mary” — her dog.

    Katie and her parents often spoke about how little society really understands mental illness. That it’s not a weakness or a moral failing. That it’s a very real, potentially fatal, disease. Katie would tell her parents that she didn’t want to die, she didn’t want to hurt them. But the illness, Shoener said, is “evil.”

    Shoener is a deeply religious man, and for a long time suicide was viewed as a sin in Catholicism. But in the last two decades, there’s been a greater acceptance from the the church that people who kill themselves may be suffering from a psychological issue beyond their control. For Shoener, educating people about mental illness and suicide feels like a mission from God. That in death, Katie will save lives.

    The obituary, and a similar homily he gave at her funeral, have provided comfort to the many people who have since approached him or emailed him expressing gratitude for his honesty about what Katie endured.

    And her friends are now advocates too. They’re organizing a “5Kate” run on her birthday this year – Halloween. The tagline for the event is: “Wear a costume, but don’t mask mental illness.”

    “God will use this death to help others come out of the shadows. To help people to find a way to talk to each other about this illness,” Shoener said. “Katie was not bipolar. She was a wonderful girl who had bipolar disorder.”

    Read more mental health awareness coverage from Inspired Life:

    I told the truth about my sister’s suicide in her obituary so that others might choose to live

    Suffering Out Loud: People are coming out with their mental issue to end stigma

    Kids hand him their suicide notes. Now this musician has 120 of their names tattooed on his arm

    His mom publicly compared him to killer Adam Lanza. Now the teen is opening up about his bipolar disorder.

Pennsylvania Association of Student Assistance Professionals
PO Box 1254
State College, Pennsylvania 16804 

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