U.S teens are more likely to use an illicit drug than European Teens


“The U.S ranks first in the proportion of students using any illicit drug other than marijuana in their lifetime and using hallucinogens like LSD in their lifetime…”

Testimony of Illicit Drug Use


It was one of those early spring mornings when dew still glitters on the grass before the burn of the sun. As I rounded the last mile of my 6:00 a.m. run, my thoughts were sharp, my heart was beating, I felt so alive. As I crested the hill, there was the familiar shape of my house, but I saw something was out of place. A slumped form on my front porch; a scene I could not assimilate. In the safe suburban neighborhood, in front of my safe suburban house, was the body of my seventeen year old son, passed out, as I was to discover later – from heroin. Oh my God! Heroin!And so began a process of phone calls to treatment centers, insurance companies, and a convoluted labyrinth of agencies. I sat at the kitchen table, held my head in my hands and wept. I was overwhelmed, frightened and I felt totally alone.That was thirteen years ago, and I can now thankfully say that my son has been drug-free for many years and is a happy and productive member of society. He plans to climb the Sierra Nevada Mountains (again) this summer. He is living his dreams.
Getting there wasn’t easy. However, I learned a lot in the process that informs the beliefs I have about substance abuse treatment today. The instinct to protect and rescue a child who is struggling is consistent for parents rich, poor, black, brown, white or yellow, religious or not. Everybody has problems, everybody deserves help. Oh, and the other thing: the disease of addiction doesn’t care if your kid has insurance.

Today I (Lisa Bell, Director of Clinical Services) work for an organization with a program that offers help to young people impacted by substance abuse. We don’t care if they have insurance either. The Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse (YODA) program will serve any male or female under the age of 18 regardless of their ability to pay. We always remember that the youth we serve are someone’s children and treat them as if they were our own.

The Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse program performs over 300 assessments each year and it continues to grow. Help STARS continue saving young lives from addiction.

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STARS Program Wish List

Due to the growth and demands of our services, our programs are always in need of specific items from our STARS family. We would love for you to consider donating to STARS the following items:

We’ve categorized the needs based on each of our programs:

Student Assistance Program

  • File Folders
  • General Office Supplies
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Stress Balls (for the students to use when prepping for tests)
  • Tabletop Zen Gardens (for the students to use for therapeutic sessions)
  • Story Books (centered on behaviors, feelings, manners, etc. – gently used is okay)
  • Kleenex
  • School Floor Mats 
  • 2016 Desk Calendars
  • Reams of Plain White Paper
  • Gift Cards to Office Depot

Kids on the Block

Services for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse

  • Non-perishable Snacks (including juice boxes)
  • Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text (gently used is okay and as many as we can get)
  • Art supplies (anything from construction paper to painting supplies)
  • $15 and $30 visa gift cards to use as stipends for speakers
  •  All-Day Youth Bus Passes  (As many as we can get)


  • (50) $10 visa gift cards to use as prizes during our MOVE2STAND trainings

If you have any questions, please contact STARS Development office at 615.983.8720 or email our Development & Communications Coordinator, Heidi Rogers.

STARS Bullying Prevention Month

October is Bullying Prevention month, focusing on groups across the country committed to putting an end to bullying, relaying information aimed to bring awareness as well as to provide prevention resources.
October serves as a reminder that bullying is an issue entire communities must address. One valuable way to do that is to educate ourselves and our communities, and be aware of the resources available. STARS has been solution-focused on this issue for over 20 years. Here are some valuable program resources we would like to share with you.

KOTBKids on the Block (KOB): Our program educates children and the broader community about challenges and important issues that affect their lives, reaching nearly 40,000 children and adults in schools and community agencies across Tennessee counties.
“Kids on the Block tailors its bullying prevention programs to fit the needs of the age group. KOB starts talking to Kindergarteners about teasing and name calling and how words can hurt. With 1st graders, we talk about self-control and problem solving, helping them to see that there’s more than one way to solve a problem. With 2nd graders, we talk about differences and how we are all different and that should be celebrated and not used to hurt. With older elementary students, we try to help them distinguish between bullying and conflicts. We also work to empower bystanders encouraging them to be “standbyers” – someone who will go and stand to support kids who are getting bullied or harmed in anyway.” – Melanie Scott, Program Director of Kids on the Block

SAPStudent Assistance Program (SAP): Our nationally recognized, evidence-based program provides counselors in Middle and High Schools to help students address issues such as bullying. SAP has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) as one of three evidence-based practices to address intervention services for youth ages 6 to 18.
“Each of the schools we serve has different needs; our Student Assistance Program works closely with the individual school administrators and faculty on how to help spread awareness of bullying and to advocate for bullying prevention within the school. Our Student Assistance Program also works closely with other STARS programs like MOVE2STAND and Kids on the Block to meet the needs of the individual students. Our counselors work individually with students who have been bullied by providing them a supportive place where they can address their feelings and process their hurt. The SAP counselors will also help the young person to set boundaries for themselves and work on assertive communication. For the persons’ that bully, the SAP counselor works to show them how their behavior affects others and works to focus on the personal experiences that have lead them to bullying behavior.” – Kay Higgs, Student Assistance Program Team Leader/Trainer
To see a list of the schools we are currently in, click here.

YODAYouth Overcoming Drug Abuse (YODA): We believe people can recover and we do not give up. YODA provides an intensive outpatient program for adolescents with drug and substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders. While the program does not focus on bullying prevention, we try to meet our kids where they are.
“The reasons why people use drugs are pretty simple: It feels good. Another reason people use drugs is to feel better. Kids get high to deal with poverty, abuse, co-occurring disorders, bullying… all of that. If we can teach them other ways to cope, we’ve done our job and hopefully interrupted the progression towards addiction.” – Lisa Bell, Director of Clinical Services

M2SMOVE2STAND (M2S): M2S is an interactive training program to challenge students to examine their attitudes toward bullying. This one-day youth summit creates empathy and helps young leaders understand how bullying impacts school climate and communities. Additionally, it motivates the students to be the change in their school and to create a positive and inclusive school climate.
“M2S challenges every person in the room to get outside their comfort zone by physically moving and standing beside a person who needs that additional support. It allows bystanders to recognize the harmful effects of bullying and harassment while also teaching them low risk strategies to effectively support students who are getting bullied…M2S gives hope to those who have none.” – Eric Johnson, VP of Youth Development, Program Director of MOVE2STAND
To find out how to bring a training to your school, please contact us.

SSWDHHServices for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing(DHH): Students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have increased difficulties with communication, isolation, depression, learning and family connections. Our award-winning services have received national and local attention because of the support it provides. From after-school services to in-home services, the program helps Deaf and Hard of Hearing students who may be at a higher risk of being targeted or bullied in their schools.
“We address bullying in a variety of different ways; one of our projects consists of the students creating a video where they address bullying as one of the topics; when they see it done to others, when it is done to them, how it makes them feel, etc. We also address bullying in the daily activities and teachings that we do with our students.” – Laura Lekowicz-Ballard, Program Director of Services for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
To learn more about STARS follow us online:
Facebook: /STARSNASH

Substance Abuse in Families

Substance Abuse is a serious disease that continues to threaten the fabric of our community. As we look throughout society, there are many examples of substance abuse and the collateral damage that it leaves. If not careful, the family of a substance abuser can be swallowed by the collateral damage. With no preexisting knowledge or tools, substance abuse of a loved one can leave a family helpless. There are, however, tools that can help family members in this state.
To begin, a family that educates themselves on the disease of addiction gathers tools necessary to fight the many extremes of those suffering from substance abuse. Education can help a family with the extremes by giving them information on recovery, sobriety and even relapse. Education on the disease of addiction can help families understand how the disease operates, how it affects neurological pathways and the eventual role a family member can play in recovery. This education can be gained through an array of methods, books, magazines, web articles, or a treatment facility.
A treatment facility can be a huge aid in helping a family through this difficult process (provided your substance abuser is seeking additional help for their drug treatment). While the loved one seeks treatment for their drug of choice, families can meet with a family therapist. Therapists can listen to, encourage, and empower family members. A family therapist is not there to cast blame or bring shame. They educate and enlighten families on the topic of substance abuse and how to move forward.
In addition to education, a support team is necessary throughout and beyond the recovery process. A support team is another tool in the toolbox. Talk with families who have been through this process. You may ask, “Where can I find such people?” Start with Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a program offering fellowship and camaraderie for families of substance abuse users. You may also find support members at local 12–step meetings, churches, or other community-based programs. Remember, there is strength in numbers. A support team helps the family who ultimately helps the substance abusing loved one. Just as the family counselor, support teams can empower, listen, encourage, and often offer insight from their own personal experience.
Admittedly, these are only a few quick tools family members can use to aid themselves in the battle of a substance abusing loved one. Nevertheless, these tools can offer great insight, reassurance, and comfort while a family walks alongside love ones into recovery.

Need Support?

For more information and referrals in dealing with addiction, 24/7, call the Tennessee REDLINE at (800) 889-9789

Local to Middle Tennessee?

The STARS Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse (YODA) program located in Nashville, TN, provides compassionate care for adolescents and young adults with substance use and co-occurring disorders. YODA provides free treatment services to youth ages 13-18 who are uninsured or have insurance that will not pay for treatment.
Visit us at the Youth Opportunity Center
1704 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203, or visit our website.
For referral & intake call our confidential line: (615) 983-6809
National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Integrating School Climate Reform

My Experience at IIRP’s Integrating School Climate Reform

One of the most enjoyable, rewarding parts of my work is providing training for school personnel. I believe in professional development and care deeply about serving those that care for our young people. I’ve had the pleasure of working with lots of schools, districts and community organizations as well as lots of different programs these last 30 years. A constant question throughout the years from educators is “How do we coordinate all these initiatives we implement with any degree of success? There are so many programs and we can’t do another one.” I share their concerns!

school climate, Rodger Dinwiddie, stars, education reform, iirp

In July, I had the privilege of serving as a panel member at a symposium sponsored by the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP). This was a first: a gathering of 150 plus school and community leaders from across the United States committed to working together with the dual purpose of learning from each other and how to consider integrating frameworks for the improvement of school climate efforts. Panel members included leaders from nationally and internationally evidence-based programs and practices; Jeff Sprague, Positive Behavior Intervention Supports, Tia Kim the Committee for Children (Second Step and Steps to Respect), Rick Phillips, Safe Ambassador Program, Jane Riese, Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Jonathan Cohen, National School Climate Center, Keith Hickman, IIRP, and yours truly representing STARS Student Assistance Programs.

A Snapshot of School Climate Discussion

IIRP hosted this first of its kind symposium entitled, “Integrating School Climate Reform Efforts”. A small group discussion format based on the civic engagement work of Peter Block was facilitated by dear friend and colleague, Lee Rush (certified trainer). CEO of IIRP, John Bailie, spearheaded the initiative. After brief presentations from panel members the entire group participated in circles, the cornerstone of restorative practices, and discussed topics related to how best to address issues of school climate from a very broad perspective. The process was powerful and there were great moments of insight captured for future discussion and possible action steps.

While the intent of the symposium was not to reach consensus about an overall strategy to integrate and coordinate all these or for that matter, any of the hundreds of efforts across the country, the conversations stimulated tremendous thought and generated many possibilities. This was no simple, single event attempt to solve all the issues related to integration of programs, services and frameworks. It was a purposeful, thoughtful conversation. Some of the next steps will include the development of a “white paper” outlining findings and key observations from the symposium.

Endless Possibilities for Collaboration and Integration

I believe I’d be correct in stating that one of the greatest benefits, personally and professionally, was the interactions and development of relationships with members of the panel and participants. Many of the panel members had never met individually, or spent this amount of time learning from one another. The future meetings and conversations that will result from this first gathering will no doubt bring about possibilities for collaboration and integration. It was a powerful opportunity to begin a very important conversation to address the question from many educators.

“How do we work all these efforts together?”

Read about the Restorative Works Learning Network recap of IIRP Symposium: Integrating School Climate Reform Efforts blog post.