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A Comprehensive Approach: The TRUST Program in Miami


The TRUST (To Reach Ultimate Success Together) school-based program to combat substance abuse is based on the idea that schools must take a leadership role in addressing the substance abuse problem among youth. Schools should provide prevention, identify and counsel students at risk early, and intervene with students already using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

A TRUST Counselor and student

TRUST counselor Javier Berezdivin and student Kelsey Hayes.


In Dade County, Florida, TRUST was piloted in all middle schools and three high schools in 1987. Jointly funded by the school system and the federal Drug Free Schools program, it placed a "TRUST Specialist," possessing at least a master's degree, in each school. The initial pilot was deemed so successful that it has since been expanded to include all Dade County high schools and six elementary schools.

Protective Factors

Besides intervening with students at high risk, TRUST tries to teach all students refusal skills and to provide them with enough accurate information to make good decisions about substance use. Students are also helped to develop "protective factors," traits that can make them less vulnerable to addiction, such as greater self-acceptance, positive relationships, decision-making abilities, and participation in healthy alternatives to using drugs.

An Alternative to Suspension

Recognizing that addiction is a disease that can be effectively arrested through early identification, treatment, and aftercare, TRUST counselors also seek to intervene with students who are already demonstrating substance abuse problems.

In the past, if students were caught using or possessing drugs on Dade County school grounds, they would be suspended for days -- as they would be in many school districts nationwide. But the founders of TRUST saw this as counterproductive, since it gives the student days off, often without supervision, in which he or she is likely to continue using. Parents of such students are now given the option to have them attend the Alternative Intervention Program instead. The student continues attending regular school classes, then attends evening and weekend sessions with the TRUST counselor -- including at least two family meetings. During the sessions, counselors follow a special curricula designed to help these students examine their behavior and improve their coping skills.


Reaching Out to Kids at Risk

Dr. Judith Bramson is the TRUST Specialist in Homestead High School. Her goal, she says, is to intervene with troubled students -- for example, kids with addicted parents or other personal problems -- before they get deeply into substance abuse. She facilitates eight to ten support groups a week for such students. By receiving assistance with these issues now, says Dr. Bramson, these teens will be less likely to turn to drugs for relief and escape. "I think what the TRUST program does best is break the generational cycle of substance abuse," says Dr. Bramson. "By intervening now, we can break that chain."

For further information, write: Dr. James Mennes, 1500 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 341, Miami, FL 33132. Or call: (305) 995-7330

-- Donna Boundy

Photo: Courtesy of TRUST program in Miami


This description is not intended as an endorsement of this particular program.

This article is an excerpt from the Viewer's Guide for MOYERS ON ADDICTION: CLOSE TO HOME, produced by the Educational Publishing Department of Thirteen/WNET. The entire guide is available, free of charge, by downloading it to your computer or requesting a copy by mail.

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