• PPS launches REAHL, an initiative to help students with addiction and mental health challenges

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    The speakers at the REAHL news conference were (from left) PPS Board Chair Rita Moore; U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici; PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero; Alliance at Meek students Kayla Ford and Shatirrie Gipson; Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran; and Brenda Martinek, PPS Chief of Student Support Services.

    Portland Public Schools launched an initiative aimed at providing a full spectrum of care for students who are experiencing addiction and mental health issues. The initiative, announced at a news conference at the district office Thursday, comes in response to the increasing numbers of our students and families affected by the national opioid crisis, as well as other drug and mental health crises.

    Recovery, Education and Action for Healthy Living (REAHL) will serve as a clearinghouse of student support from PPS, the community and local agencies.

    “This is Portland Public Schools' effort to coordinate activities and provide a full-on prevention, treatment, recovery program for our students, and I'm very excited about all of this,” said Rita Moore, Chair of the PPS Board of Education.

    Earlier this year, PPS formed a district-wide workgroup to develop a continuum of care to support our students and families impacted by addiction and mental health challenges. These efforts resulted in a five-year plan with a goal of empowering students who face addiction and mental health challenges to actively engage in their education, personal growth, and lifelong success. 

    The REAHL continuum of care consists of four major components: prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery. Within each component, the district is providing or planning to provide services to students directly or through partnerships with local community agencies.

    “I'm very excited about the REAHL initiative here in the Portland Public Schools because it's going to be some vital work, some critical work that we can use as a model to empower students who face addiction and mental health challenges and help them overcome barriers,” U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici said at the new conference.

    PPS is working with the support from numerous community agencies, and will look expand partnerships with community members, businesses, philanthropic organizations, and others.

    Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, who is also an emergency room physician, spoke at the news conference about seeing first-hand the need to help young people.

    “Knowing how early addiction and mental health challenges often take root, I think it's absolutely critical that we expand our services to meet people where they're at; for our young people, that's in school,” she said. “Portland Public Schools and Multnomah County are currently partners in supporting youth-facing mental health and substance use challenges. It is so exciting to see PPS articulate this comprehensive plan to provide prevention, intervention and treatment to students.”

    The REAHL initiative, which has been led by Brenda Martinek, PPS Chief of Student Support Services, has seen some early outcomes. For example, the district has hired Qualified Mental Health Professionals to work with residential treatment facilities to ensure a smooth transition back to school, and to offer a broad range of additional support to students and families. The district has also increased access to mental health services for students who are uninsured and underinsured. 

    “We are here today to kick off a unique continuum of care that marshals help and support from a broad spectrum of community partners, educators and professionals, to focus attention on students for whom addiction and mental health challenges are a dominant factor in their lives,” PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said.

    See a video presentation of REAHL

    See the REAHL webpage for more information and resources.