Addiction Alliance of Georgia Launches Prevention Collaborative in South Atlanta High School

South Atlanta High Becomes First BARR School in Georgia

NOTE: The photo above of South Atlanta High School students was captured during the 2018-2019 school year, prior to the onset of COVID-19 pandemic. Atlanta Public Schools now requires everyone to wear masks when in any APS facility.

BARR Center (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) and the Addiction Alliance of Georgia—a unique collaboration between Emory Healthcare and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation—are excited to announce their partnership in welcoming South Atlanta High School of Atlanta Public Schools as the first BARR school in Georgia. BARR is a national organization that aims to bring education into the 21st century through intentionally deepened relationships and a data-driven, personalized, and supportive approach.

“In this time of the pandemic, with multiple school disruptions and ongoing physical isolation, students, teachers, families, and schools are experiencing significant stress and strain, which we know is increasing risks for substance use, mental health issues and negative educational consequences for young people,” said Stephen Delisi, MD, medical director for the Professional Education Continuum Solutions team at Hazelden Betty Ford. “A comprehensive, evidence-based prevention model such as BARR is so important now because it targets social-emotional learning and builds supportive relationships among students, teachers, peers and parents in a way that helps change trajectories so chronic lifelong mental health and substance use disorders, and other negative outcomes, do not occur.”

Hazelden Betty Ford is the nation’s largest nonprofit system of addiction treatment, co-occurring mental health care, recovery resources, and related prevention and education services. It partners with BARR Center to implement the BARR model at schools throughout the country. Last fall, it also launched the Addiction Alliance of Georgia in partnership with leading U.S. health system Emory Healthcare.

The Addiction Alliance of Georgia is engaging public and private collaborators throughout Georgia to reduce addiction rates, improve recovery rates and save more lives through a diverse strategy of treatment, prevention, education, research, and outreach. The Alliance is beginning its work by focusing on prevention and developmental growth with the future leaders of tomorrow – students. The goal is to help develop resilient, healthy, and compassionate young leaders.

“This is a great early project for us with an incredible partner like BARR Center, and an exceptional way to begin our work reaching out to community-based prevention professionals throughout Georgia to determine how best we can fill gaps and partner with others engaged in similar work. Our work with BARR at South Atlanta High School will help provide the tools necessary to keep healthy kids healthy,” said William McDonald, MD, professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine. McDonald and Delisi chair the Addiction Alliance of Georgia’s Education and Community Outreach Committee.

BARR is an evidence-based universal prevention model that has been proven to reduce risky behaviors including decreasing the incidence of substance use (alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs), academic failure, truancy, and disciplinary incidents among youth. By using real-time data and building relationships, staff members are able to support healthy development and reduce the likelihood that risky behaviors will become the norm.

South Atlanta High School will begin implementing BARR with ninth-grade students. The school has already begun BARR’s implementation training with staff members who have been learning more about the model’s two pillars – relationships and data.

BARR is designed to create strong schools and communities by empowering students, teachers, and families with data, so that schools can re-align existing resources to nurture a unified and personalized culture of support and success for every student, both inside and outside of the classroom. The BARR model provides a system and structure to the schools’ prevention efforts, allowing for targeted interventions to be put in place for those students most in need. These interventions range from encouraging students to enroll in advanced or honors courses all the way to providing support systems in place for mental health and other concerns through school – or community-based programming.

COVID-19 has made it even more critical that educators have the tools they need to reach students like never before. The changes educators have made in the past year have been revolutionary in transforming education given the impact of the pandemic throughout the world.

“Things a year ago that seemed impossible are not,” said BARR’s Founder and Executive Director Angela Jerabek. “We need each other now more than ever.”

By implementing BARR at South Atlanta High School, educators will have the support they need in these challenging times and in the future to continue fostering even stronger relationships with their students. This support will help ensure each and every student feels seen, heard, and valued.

Strengthening these relationships will be critical to give educators the tools they need to remove barriers to help students enhance their health. By using a whole-child approach, educators are able to look at students’ needs from multiple perspectives and help them succeed.

“At South Atlanta High School, we prioritize the need to transform students into future leaders to have a lasting impact in their communities,” said South Atlanta High School Principal Dr. Patricia Ford. “We are grateful for the opportunity to offer BARR to students through this partnership, as we continue strengthening relationships, supporting each learner, and helping students be the best versions of themselves.”

BARR will also equip South Atlanta High School with the tools to be able to further assess data to help keep students healthy while meeting high standards, achieving their goals, and attending school more. This data is pivotal to better serving students by understanding them academically, socially, and emotionally. BARR will provide educators with time specifically allotted in their schedules to focus on each individual student’s well-being, strengths and needs together. This collaboration is critical to help students feel supported as they strive for growth.

“In order to create a thriving environment, we need to truly know each student and understand them from multiple perspectives,” said Jerabek. “BARR will provide South Atlanta High School’s team with the tools they need by building meeting time into their calendars to focus on data and strengthen relationships, helping each and every student succeed.”

This partnership between BARR and the Addiction Alliance of Georgia will not only help students academically, socially, and emotionally. It will provide educators with the tools they need to truly transform students’ lives.

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