A Day in the Life: A Project Eden SUD Prevention Specialist

Paul helps youth explore and identify behavior and attitudes towards substance use through active listening and reflective questions.

Paul, a Prevention Specialist (PS) with Horizon Services’ Project Eden, pulls into the high school parking lot early Monday morning. Among his tools are his skills; trauma-informed care, motivational interviewing; and various training, like Be Sensitive, Be Brave and Prime Solutions. Along with a heart of service. His backpack is full paperwork, Teens Talking Point cards to get the conversation with youth ignited… OH! and two Red Bull drinks.

Paul Francisco, SUD Prevention Specialist

Youth tend to be referred to him for guidance around substance use and/or mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation. He checks the day’s attendance against his list of students. A total of eight of the ten are in class. Paul writes a pass for each and excuses them one at a time throughout the day. Student Teacher Assistants (TAs) from the Wellness Center assist in retrieving students.

To help youth make healthier choices, the Substance Use Prevention Specialist understands the value of these interpersonal connections. Each session is a safe place for youth to express concerns, struggles, and aspirations without judgment. For Paul, it’s an opportunity to listen empathically, offer guidance, and equip students with tools to navigate the complexities of adolescence.

Challenges and vulnerabilities are unique to each student. Peer pressure is affecting some, while familial stressors or insecurities are affecting others – any of which may be aiding their substance use. The Prevention Specialist briefly reviews what was discussed last week and together, they assess progress or continued challenges in facing these situations.

The role of the Prevention Specialist is to provide youth education about substance use, mental health, and high-risk activities. They create and deliver programs in schools or communities that encourage young people to make informed, healthy decisions around substance use in their lives. They promote wellness strategies and may hold 1:1 judgement-free spaces for much-needed support and guidance.

Paul may help explore and identify behavior and attitudes towards substance use through active listening and reflective questions. Identifying triggers, setting realistic goals, and managing stress, peer pressure, and temptation are all part of the process, and a student’s journey to wellness. By working together weekly or bimonthly, the two form a partnership based on trust and mutual respect, promoting health and well-being together.

By the end of his day, Paul has engaged with a few students on his list, and he packs up his things. Tomorrow he will visit another high school in another town, helping more youth find empowerment in their lives through new coping strategies, and for some, further resources –perhaps a referral to our youth outpatient program.