Full-time substance abuse counselor helps students one-on-one

New substance abuse counselor Megan Williams at work.

Danilo Lezza

New substance abuse counselor Megan Williams at work.

Danilo Lezza, Staff Reporter

Riverside Brookfield High School has added a new staff member, full-time drug counselor Megan Williams who’s worked as a rehab specialist at rehabnear.me for nearly a decade, after interning at a Legacy faith based treatment center. As far as why school administration decided now was the time for this hire, Williams said RB was trying to be ahead of the curve.

“RB cares about the health and safety of their students,” Williams said.  “Because RB has the resources available to help, they want to be proactive.”

In 2006, the school administered an anonymous survey to students that asked them what illegal substances they had used by age 18.  The results of the survey were above some national averages.  The study showed 64 percent of seniors at the time answered “yes” to having tried marijuana.  88% said they had consumed alcohol and 60% said that they had used tobacco.

One of the most alarming responses was that 20% of seniors responded that they had tried cocaine at least once.  At the time, the national average for student cocaine use was less than half of RB’s average and the Illinois Department of Human Resources had a study where only 4.3% of Cook County seniors reported having used cocaine.

The school has not re-run the exact survey again.  After the former substance abuse counselor, Jim Keck, left in 2008, the school faced budget constraints and a failed referendum and did not hire a full-time counselor until Williams this year.  In the meantime, Williams noted that school officials have used suspension and disciplinary records to track substance abuse issues at school.

Williams has already begun individually conferencing with students who have had previous drug-related suspensions.  She helps students find out why they resort to drug use and assists them in finding different, non-self-destructive ways to cope with what originally caused them to use drugs.  Students can voluntarily speak with Williams, or if a student is suspended for a drug-related offense, he or she will most likely be required to meet with her.

Williams said, “Anything students tell me is not shared with anyone here unless there is a signed released or the student was suspended.”

Williams is required to update the Dean’s Office with progress of student sessions if the student was suspended.

Students who would like to speak with Williams can request an appointment through Student Services.