Workers Assistance Program (WAP)

WAP Blog

Archive: May 2013

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A Big Thank You from WAP!

Our first ever WAP Garage Sale Fundraiser was a great success! We want to thank everyone who came to our office parking lot on Saturday. We felt this garage sale would be a great opportunity for people to give back to their community, and you guys did not disappoint. We made $300, which will go towards helping families in need, providing counseling services, or aiding a prevention specialist get the training they need. 

Everything that was not purchased was donated to the local Salvation Army here in South Austin. Hopefully, those items will find a good home.

Again, we want to thank everyone that made the effort to roll out of bed early on Saturday morning, especially staffers/organizers Daina Huntington, Dago Garcia, Samantha Thompson, and Debi Ellison, and to everyone who donated items to the WAP garage sale. 



National Prevention Week Blog Series: PAL® Peer Assistance and Leadership

In honor of SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week, Workers Assistance Program asked several of its program to share their thoughts on prevention, their programs, and how substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion are improving our workplaces, schools, and communities. This is our sixth post of the week, and it comes to us from PAL® Training Manager Daina Huntington. 

 PAL® Peer Assistance and Leadership is a nationally recognized peer-helping curriculum owned and distributed by WAP. Founded in 1980 and initially implemented in only one high school, PAL® now serves over 1700 schools at the K-12 level. In 2011, we were thrilled to learn that the National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) added PAL® as a model program, one of the highest distinctions that a prevention curriculum can receive.

 The PAL® curriculum focuses on giving young people the opportunity, tools, and skills to help their peers. In helping their peers, their actions can positively affect not only their peers but also themselves and their communities. Our programs engage students in various service-learning projects, such as alcohol and drug prevention presentations, cross-age mentoring, new student orientation, and community food drives. While PAL® programs are generally school-based, the curriculum may also be facilitated in community or faith-based agencies. 

At the agency level, PAL® Services provides training to teachers and sponsors who facilitate the PAL® program in their school or community. We inform educators of the latest developments in suicide prevention education, improving communication skills, violence prevention, conflict resolution, and substance abuse prevention. We provide training for PAL® students or participants and technical assistance and support for new and existing PAL® programs. These services are available throughout Texas and fourteen additional states.

Goals and objectives for the PAL® program include: developing peer helping programs, providing training, networking opportunities, and technical assistance in order to create exemplary PAL® programs. Although the PAL® curriculum covers a wide variety of prevention topics, including bullying and preventing teen pregnancy, the foundation of the program is substance abuse prevention. As such, it is very important to us that advances in the fields of mental health and substance abuse continue. In particular, we are very interested in the current strides made in brain sciences and studies of human development.  This research reveals greater knowledge concerning youth risk factors, and we are eager to use the information as a guide for future curriculum revisions.

If you are interested in learning more about PAL® and the work we do, please visit our website or call us at 512-343-9595.



National Prevention Week Blog Series: Independent Case Management Services

In honor of SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week, Workers Assistance Program asked several of its program directors to share their thoughts on prevention, their programs, and how substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion are improving our workplaces, schools, and communities. This is our second post of the day and fifth of the week. It focuses on Independent Case Management Services (ICMS) through the words of its director Jody Snee. 

Independent Case Management Services (ICMS) provides support, advocacy and education for youth involved in juvenile probation, as well as for their families.  Our case management services are active, intensive, and creative. Our approach is strengths-based and predicated on the belief that adolescents are resilient and will respond to intervention. Collaborating with youth and their caregivers, we can help them identify resources, overcome obstacles, and take the steps they need to be successful!

Not all young people start out with the support and resources they require to be happy and healthy. Youth involved in the juvenile justice system frequently experience a myriad of challenges complicating their ability to be successful; they are more likely to experience poverty, low school attendance, lack of mental health treatment, and lack of healthcare coverage. Youth placed on probation also frequently deal with family instability, substance abuse issues, trauma, and exposure to violence.

We’re in the business of systematically removing barriers and capitalizing on our clients’ strengths. Independent Case Management helps youth and families set goals, prioritize, and plan. We help families meet basic needs. We teach problem-solving and communication skills.  We advocate for our clients and celebrate their progress. By connecting young people and their caregivers to appropriate resources and services, we help prepare youth to adhere to probation requirements, achieve goals, and see better outcomes. 

Prevention Week makes us think hard about the services we provide for young people in our community. It makes us consider what young people need early on. It makes us assess our methods for early prevention and what young people and their families need to make healthy choices. 

For the young people we work with, the risk factors are great and the protective factors seem to be too few. By the time we become involved with a young person, he or she has run into more than a few problems. She has likely engaged in significant substance use, experienced high levels of trauma, and has unaddressed medical needs. They likely have poor school performance, aren’t attending school, have engaged in significant substance use, or have been exposed to violence from an early age. They may have parents or siblings who deal with substance abuse or who have mental health concerns.

Because we work with young people who are involved in the juvenile justice system already, we work at a crossroads. The courts have determined a need to intervene with the young people we work with – assigning legal consequences for problem behavior. At the same time, we see an opportunity to support change and growth –to prevent long-term involvement in the justice system, continued substance use, and problem behavior. 

Our work is about bolstering protective factors and reducing risk factors. It’s about building skills and finding alternatives for individual clients. It’s also about supporting broader prevention efforts throughout the community – and not waiting until our kids are on probation. 

We are excited about prevention at all levels and the possibilities for success if we increase our early efforts! We encourage everyone to support prevention efforts in their community. Check out the SAMHSA site for more information on prevention programs, services, and education materials. Prevention makes a difference for our young people and for our communities.




National Prevention Week Blog Series: Creating Lasting Family Connections

In honor of SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week, Workers Assistance Program has gotten several of its program directors together to share their thoughts on prevention, their programs, and how substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion are improving our workplaces, schools, and communities. This post focuses on the Creating Lasting Family Connections Program through the words of its director Melissa Rios. 

I recall my mother telling me the same thing every time I walked out the door as a teenager “vale mas que no tomes” (you better not drink).  I didn’t understand what she was trying to say until I saw how drinking affected my peers and their decision making.  I knew then I did not want to follow that path.

Hello, I am the program director for Creating Lasting Family Connections. CLFC is a substance abuse prevention program that uses evidence-based interventions to prevent or reduce the onset of substance use in at risk youth of Travis County.  Our program follows a family strengthening approach attempting to enhance family bonds and increase resilience in youth.  CLFC currently works with youth ages 13 thru 18 who have at least one of the following:

  • Substance use or experimentation
  • Interpersonal social problems
  • Delinquency
  • Antisocial behaviors
  • Psychological problems

Creating Lasting Family Connections is an approved curriculum through the National Registry of Evidence-based Program and Practices (NREPP) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA). CLFC was created by the Council on Prevention and Education: Substance, Inc. (COPES), and is provide free of charge to the Travis County community through funding from the Texas Department of State Health and Human Services, and Travis County Health and Human Services. 

Over the past seven years CLFC has delivered the curriculum of over 450 youth in Travis County with 73% completing the program successfully by increasing their refusal skills.

CLFC successfully promotes strong and dynamic personal and interpersonal skills development and health promotion activities. Also, CLFC works towards preventing of negative outcomes, including:

  • Reducing substance abuse by youth and adults
  • Reducing violent behavior
  • Reducing HIV transmission
  • Reducing prison recidivism
  • Enhancing communication and refusal skills
  • Enhancing emotional awareness and expression skills
  • Enhancing family bonding 

A prevention specialist works with the entire family and conducts screenings for eligibility into the program.  In addition, our Prevention Specialist connects families with community resources to help address all of the needs of the family.  CLFC staff is fully bilingual and culturally sensitive program. Groups are held in both English and Spanish. 

For me substance abuse prevention is the key to building healthy successfully adults. Our young people are growing up in a world that has drastically transformed over the past couple of decades, where drugs and alcohol are social norms.  We must fight back to protect the well-being of our youth and ensure that they have an opportunity at grow up in a health environment. 

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National Prevention Week Blog Series: Texas HIV Connection

In honor of SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week, Workers Assistance Program has gotten several of its program directors together to share their thoughts on prevention, their programs, and how substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion are improving our workplaces, schools, and communities. Today, we focus on the Texas HIV Connection (THIVC) through the words of its director and longtime WAPer Brad Lindgren.

The Texas HIV Connection (THIVC), a division of Workers Assistance Program, is a dedicated team determined to help professionals gain the knowledge they need to serve a community affected by substance use/abuse and mental health related issues. A unique aspect to our training program is how we connect these issues to the risk of contracting HIV and other communicable diseases. THIVC has been a leading HIV education organization for over 25 years and began its educational services during the initial panic surrounding the epidemic. 

The carefully curated content of our trainings directly affects how providers care for their clients in our state. THIVC has helped reduce the rate of infections by putting an impetus on the correlation between the disease, substance abuse, and mental health issues. Although we do not provide services directly to clients, it makes the long hours of developing curriculum and hitting the road training worth it when agencies say that our trainings have made them better, more understanding caregivers. 

Our training staff’s strengths come from their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and service in the substance abuse, mental health and HIV/AIDS education fields. They specialize in providing workshops focusing on HIV disease, substance abuse, mental health, cultural understanding, sexual behaviors, and harm/risk reduction techniques that providers can use with their clients. Our training specialists also conduct trainings on a variety of counseling methods including Motivational Interviewing and Empowerment Counseling. 

Along with our many trainings and speaking engagements, THIVC also puts on one of the only conferences of its kind in the nation. For almost 20 years, the Street Outreach and HEI Case Management Conference (formally know as the Street Outreach Workers Conference) has provided outreach workers and case managers from all over the state the opportunity to examine the major obstacles and trends in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in the company of their peers and contemporaries. Conference speakers, presenters, and roundtable leaders offer educational opportunities that showcase tools and techniques to more effectively help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS with a special emphasis in how substance use and mental health issues relate to this disease.

As the treatment landscape changes in this country, our mission remains to ensure our trainings and methods are up-to-date and effective. On average, THIVC trains over 1500 professionals each year and provides them with the newest statistics research and methods with the intent that we will use them to best serve our communities. A majority of the information we implement in our trainings is received through SAMSHA, and we are grateful for the wonderful work they do. The TIPS books and monthly publications are a great resource to us and the many other professionals we train. 

If you would like to know more about the Texas HIV Connection, the trainings we offer, or our annual conference, please, feel free to call us at either 512-343-9595 or 877-287-1533. You can also visit our website



National Prevention Week Blog Series: Strengthening Families Program

In honor of National Prevention Week, Workers Assistance Program has gotten several of its program directors together to share their thoughts on prevention, their programs, and how substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion are improving our workplaces, schools, and communities. Today, we focus on the Strengthening Families Program (SFP) through the words of its director Maria Matthews. 

Recently, professionals in the field of prevention have incorporated the elements, principles, and approaches of family support into prevention. The focus of family support programs is to promote the acquisition of knowledge and skills that strengthens family functioning. It is well recognized that family support holds the promise of obtaining better outcomes for children and families. 

Family Support is:

  • A set of beliefs with an approach to strengthening and empowering families as well as communities.
  • A type of grassroots, and community- based program designated to prevent family problems.
  • A shift in human services delivery.
  • A movement for social change.
  • Improving the families’ ability to access resources they need.
  • Building relationships based on equality and respect.
  • Celebrating diversity and affirming cultural, racial and linguistic identity.

The Strengthening Families Program is an evidence-based prevention program focusing on reducing family-related risk factors for adolescent problem behaviors and building protective factors in young adolescent children and their parents/caregivers. Since 2008, Workers Assistance Program has provided family-focused prevention services for youth living in the 78744 ZIP code through the Strengthening Families Program. WAP recognizes that youth and families are part of communities with unique cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic characteristics, and our programs strive to meet our community’s needs. To effectively support youth, prevention programs must recognize that children will be happier and healthier when they are raised in strong families, and that families will be stronger when they are living in supportive communities.

SFP facilitates seven two-hour sessions for parents and youth who attend separate skill-building groups for the first hour and spend the second hour together in supervised family activities. The parenting sessions review appropriate developmental expectations, teach parents to interact positively with children (such as showing enthusiasm and attention for good behavior) including active listening, and reducing criticism and sarcasm. The youth sessions includes communication skills, problem solving, peer resistance and coping skills. The family sessions allow the parents and children time to practice what they learned in their individual sessions through the implementation of hands-on family activities. This is also a time for the program facilitators to coach and encourage family members for improvements in parent/child interactions. 

The Strengthening Families Program is highly rated by international and national review groups, including the prestigious World Health Organization, Cochrane Collaboration Reviews in Oxford, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime in Vienna and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). We assess our program’s successes through measuring increases in family strengths and reductions in risk factors. This includes behavioral, emotional, academic and social problems. SFP is now widely used also as a universal primary prevention intervention in schools, churches, and communities. The Strengthening Families Program is successful because it promotes protective factors, like improved family relationships, parenting skills, and the youth’s social and life skills, which work as effective substance abuse prevention, promote mental wellness, and correct disruptive behavior in the classroom and home.

We are proud to be an effective and contributing member of the local community here in Austin. Prevention is very important to staff in SFP and Workers Assistance Program. If you would like to know more about us, please feel free to contact us at 512-444-9505.



National Prevention Week Blog Series: Coordinated Training Services

In honor of National Prevention Week, Workers Assistance Program has gotten several of its program directors together to share their thoughts on prevention, their programs, and how substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion are improving our workplaces, schools, and communities. Today, we focus on Coordinated Training Services (CTS) through the words of its director Samantha Thompson, a five-year veteran of WAP. 


Coordinated Training Services (CTS) is your one-stop prevention training shop! We are dedicated to providing innovative trainings focused on the prevention of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use (ATOD) by young people. Additionally, we also provide trainings for professional development such as Prevention Ethics and the Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Training, essentials for those preparing to take their Certified Prevention Specialist Exam.

We take great pride in providing excellent customer service to the prevention field. Currently, CTS is the chosen vendor to coordinate all ATOD prevention-related trainings to state-funded agencies in Texas, and our customers include prevention specialists, supervisory personnel, tobacco prevention coalitions, and many others. We love interacting with the folks who teach the curricula that we’ve trained them in. We hear about their successes with the students they serve, and we are often the first call they make when they face any challenges in delivering prevention curricula.

In operation since 2007, CTS has provided over 8,000 trainings at locations throughout Texas. We have published over 2,000 articles via our website and sent over 70 newsletters that highlight upcoming prevention events. We stay in constant contact with our curricula developers and trainers to ensure people in the field have the most current prevention resources and information possible. Maintaining a good relationship with our network encourages and promotes successful substance abuse prevention and mental health advocacy in Texas, which is very important to us.

We hope to continue seeing increased collaboration between mental health and substance abuse professionals. This is a critical part making all components of the public health continuum effective as possible. Additionally, we are delighted to see opportunities for the professional development of prevention professionals continue to grow. Prevention is still a relatively new field, and it is exciting to be part of a pioneering group of people supporting and developing new techniques and methods as it gains momentum.

It is our pleasure to serve Texas and bring you the trainings that matter the most. Please contact us with any questions, concerns, or just to say hi! We want to hear from you!



Workers Assistance Program and National Prevention Week

Workers Assistance Program is proud to celebrate SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week alongside so many other wonderful agencies doing great work in the fields of mental health and substance abuse. WAP has several programs that either provide direct services to at-risk youth, individuals, and families (PAL®, Mentoring, Strengthening Families Program, Creating Lasting Family Connections, Integrated Case Management Services) or facilitate trainings for mental health and substance abuse service providers (Coordinated Training Services, Texas HIV Connection). We are proud of our commitment to substance abuse prevention and mental health.

We are celebrating and recognizing our programs and program directors who do remarkable work in these fields through a blog series during National Prevention Week. In their own words, program directors will explain what their programs do, the effect they feel their programs have on our communities, and their hopes for mental health and substance abuse.

For more information on SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week and to sign the Prevention Pledge, click here


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WAP joins the Austin Independent Business Alliance!

WAP is pleased to announce that we have joined hundreds of other like-minded and socially conscious, Austin-owned businesses by joining the Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA). The mission of AIBA is “to promote and support locally owned businesses through advocacy, consumer educations and services to our members.” They have created 8 IBIZ Districts® in Austin to spotlight areas filled with locally owned businesses. With an uncertain economy, local buying is more important than ever before. For every $100 spent with a national chain, only about $13 goes to the local economy, compared to $45 when buying from a locally owned business. Join us in letting our voices be heard about the importance of buying locally. Visit and find local vendors that meet your needs. And while you are there, check out the listing for Alliance Work Partners!


Blog, WAP

WAP Hosting Its First Garage Sale Fundraiser

Workers Assistance Program, Inc. is coordinating its first ever Garage Sale Fundraiser!

Consider donating items or joining us at our Southpark offices (4115 Freidrich Lane, Suite 100) on Saturday, May 18th between the hours of 8:30am and 1:30pm. We will have clothes, home furnishings, and various other items on sale for low, low prices!

All funds will be used towards enhancing the services WAP provides. Funds raised can go towards improving the ability of Youth Advocacy to provide emergency basic needs assistance to low-income families or subsidizing a PAL® student training. They can help provide a scholarship to a substance abuse or HIV prevention professional to attend important workshops or enrich other initiatives that help us create better workplaces, schools & communities.

For more information, call 512-343-9595 or email Daina at