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Student Assistance Team

What is the Student Assistance Program (SAP)?

Pennsylvania’s Student Assistance Program (SAP), is a joint effort of the Department of Education, the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs, and the Department of Public Welfare’s Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.  It is designed to assist school personnel in the early identification and prevention of personal and family concerns including alcohol, drug, and mental health issues which may be contributing to lack of student success. The primary goal of the Student Assistance Program (SAP) is to help students overcome these barriers in order that they may achieve, remain in school, and advance.   


The core of the program is a professionally trained team, including school staff and liaisons from community alcohol and drug and mental health agencies. SAP team members are trained to identify problems, determine whether or not the presenting problem lies within the scope of the school and to make recommendations to assist the student and the parent.   When the problem lies beyond the scope of the school, the SAP team will assist the parent and student so they may access services within the community. The student assistance team members do not diagnose, treat or refer to treatment; but they may refer for a screening or an assessment for treatment.


There are four phases to the student assistance process:


Referral - Anyone, school staff, a student's friend, a family member, or community member can refer a student to SAP when they are concerned about the student's behavior.  The students themselves can even go directly to the SAP team to ask for help. 


Team Planning – The SAP team gathers objective information about the student’s performance in school from all school personnel who have contact with the student. Information is also collected from the parent. The team meets with the parent to discuss the data colleted and also meets with the student. Together, a plan is developed that includes strategies for removing the learning barriers and promoting the student’s academic and personal success to include in-school and/or community-based services and activities.


Intervention and Recommendations – The plan is put into action. The team assists in linking the student to in-school and/or community-based services and activities.   The team might recommend a drug and alcohol or mental health assessment. 


Support and Follow-Up – The SAP team continues to work with and support the student and their family. Follow-up includes monitoring, mentoring, and motivating for academic success. 


The involvement of parents in all phases of the student assistance program underscores the parents’ role and responsibility in the decision–making process affecting their children’s education and is key to the successful resolution of problems.


        The student assistance process is based upon state guidelines, professional standards and policies, and procedures adopted by the local school board of directors. Professional training for team members in all phases of the student assistance process, which is consistent with state guidelines and conducted by a Commonwealth approved training provider, is required to ensure the appropriateness of the recommended services, effective inter-agency collaboration and compliance with state and federal laws protecting the privacy rights of parents and students.


            If you would like more information on the SAP team please contact the guidance counselor at  If you would like to make a referral please complete the SAP Referral Form


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