County to hold training event for school nurses on drugs, vaping, tobacco and mental health

Editor’s note: This press release was provided by Westchester County.

(White Plains, NY) — Westchester County is holding a dynamic training conference on Jan. 22 to help school nurses respond to the growing number of students who are using drugs, tobacco or vaping products.

Physicians, adolescent psychiatrists, nurses and other experts will update the school nurses on the latest strategies for assisting students who are vaping, using other addictive substances, or struggling with mental health issues that negatively affect student health and safety.

“A school nurse is often the first health-care professional to recognize that a student has a substance abuse problem or a mental health issue,” County Executive George Latimer said. “We want to arm our school nurses with the best practices and strategies available so they can help the students in their care with these difficult issues.”

Nurses from more than 50 Westchester and Putnam schools will be in attendance for the training session, “Adolescent Substance Use Issues: For School Nurses Only.” The event is organized by the Westchester County Office of Drug Abuse Prevention & STOP-DWI and co-sponsored by the Westchester Coalition, New York State Association of School Nurses/Zone 4, Student Assistance Services Corp. and the Prevention Council of Putnam.

Multiple panel discussions will be led by experts, including:

  • The Health Consequences of Adolescent Vaping;
  • How a Mental Health Disorder Can Lead to a Substance Abuse Disorder;
  • Escape the Vape;
  • Responding to Students With Mental Health Disorders in the School Nurses Office;
  • Drug-Induced Toxic Reactions in Adolescents.

Presenters include representatives from Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, NYU School of Medicine, New York City Poison Control Center, Student Assistance Services, the harris project and Westchester County Department of Public Safety.

“We need the most up-to-date information because nurses are on the front lines of these issues and have to make lifesaving decisions about a student’s health” said Wendy Kopec, a school nurse with the Lakeland Central School District and the President of Zone 4 of the New York State Association of School Nurses.

Pat Tomassi, Director of the Westchester County Office of Drug Abuse Prevention and STOP-DWI, which oversees the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth, stated, “We co-sponsor this bi-annual conference so school nurses will be better able to identify students that need prompt medical attention, shouldn’t be driving, or shouldn’t be riding with an impaired parent.”

Stephanie Marquesano, founder of the harris project, will discuss the interaction between substance use and mental health disorders. The harris project seeks to improve the lives of teens and young adults diagnosed with co-occurring disorders (COD), a combination of one or more mental health challenges and substance abuse issues.

Student Assistance Services Corporation provides prevention services and consultation to many Westchester schools and communities. The Prevention Council of Putnam provides similar services and consultation in Putnam County and is sponsoring the nurses from Putnam County schools.

The conference is free for school nurses in public, private and parochial middle schools and high schools in Westchester and Putnam counties. It will be held at the Westchester Marriot, 670 White Plains Road, Tarrytown, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.