Counseling Department » ESAP/SAP


Student Assistance Program (ESAP & SAP)


What is a Student Assistance Program?

A Student Assistance Program (SAP) is a service available to all K-12 students and is designed to help school personnel identify issues, including alcohol, drugs, mental health, and behavioral concerns which could pose a barrier to a student's learning and school success.  The primary goal of the SAP (ESAP in elementary), is to help students overcome these barriers in order for them to achieve, remain in school, and advance. 

The SAP uses a systematic process along with specially trained school personnel to intervene and refer these students to appropriate in-school and/or community services.  Parent involvement in all phases of SAP strengthens the parent's role and responsibility inthe decision making process. 


Why do schools have SAP teams?

All school districts in Pennsylvania are required to establish and maintain a program to provide appropriate referrals for counseling and support services for student who experience difficulities in school.  The program has been in existence since 1985 and has been maintained as a cooperative effort among the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Health, and Public Welfare. 


Who is involved in SAP?

The SAP Core Team is comprised of a building principal, a school counselor, a nurse, and a behavioral health liaison, who is contracted through Excela Health-Westmoreland by St. Vincent College Prevention Projects.   At the elementary level (ESAP), the instructional support teacher is also part of the team.  At the secondary level (SAP), classroom teachers are included as team members along with the home school visitor.  The ESAP teams meet 1-2 times a month for approximately 1 hour for each meeting.  The SAP teams have weekly meetings.  Periodically, Heather Meyer, St. Vincent Coordinator, will attend to monitor the program.   

Training for the ESAP and SAP Core Teams is provided by St. Vincent College Prevention Projects.  Each member must attend a five day workshop before joining the team.  St. Vincent also offers add-on trainings for new members, thematic workshops, and team maintenance. 

A district SAP representative attends monthly WASAP (Westmoreland Area Student Assistance Program) meetings to discuss important issues related to the SAP process. Renee Urich, Regional Coordinator of PA Network for Student Assistance Services, disseminates information from the state to help SAP teams update their procedures according to state guidelines.  


What is the SAP process?

Any member of the Core Team, school staff, students, or parents can make an ESAP/SAP referral.  Referral forms are available in each school.  Initial referrals can also be directed verbally to a team member.  Once a referral is made, the case is reviewed and the ESAP/SAP process of gathering information begins.  If acquired information indicates a need for assistance, parents/guardians are informed. 

While a school counselor usually serves as the facilitator through the process, the family and the SAP team work together to develop a plan based on the student's needs.  The plan may include an assessment by a trained drug/alcohol/mental health professional.  The SAP team does not diagnose or provide treatment.