EAST GREENWICH—ASAPP, the student-led affiliate group of the town’s drug program, will be hosting a mental health forum at Cole Middle School on Feb. 26. The program will also feature representatives from the University of Rhode Island School of Pharmacy, and is aimed at addressing mental health concerns within the community and offering solutions to better help residents prevent and cope with such concerns.

“We are looking to create a forum where a significant portion of those presenting are young people who want to help support other young people in dealing with mental health conditions and promoting better mental health more generally,” said town drug program director Bob Houghtaling. “We have also received a significant amount of support from the URI School of Pharmacy, who will be helping to present on the interrelationship of stress and medication and how people can augment those things with lifestyle changes and counseling.”

ASAPP is an acronym for the drug program’s process for dealing with mental health and substance use issues, and stands for “to Assess, seek Support, take Action, Proceed and develop Prevention techniques. The ASAPP group is a student-led initiative that helps residents, both young and old, to utilize the ASAPP technique to better their lives and mitigate the hardships of mental health and substance use-related crises.

“It’s a process that asks people to assess their situation, to recognize when they have a problem, and to then seek real support,” Houghtaling said. “Seeking support isn’t the end though, you have to take action. You have to put into play the lessons you learn from seeking support to sustain a positive change. You have to figure out how to proceed into your everyday life, and bring about new habits to create a lasting change.”

The ASAPP students will be modeling and presenting the types of stressors they commonly experience and how others can help to ameliorate the mental health issues associated with such experiences. In all, the forum is designed to be an exploration of the ASAPP process for exploring stressors and initiating means of recovery. The first half-hour of the event will be led by the students and URI School of Pharmacy members, and will be followed by a question and answer period.

Houghtaling spoke to the importance of the URI School of Pharmacy’s support for the drug program over the years, and the value it brings to forums such as these.

“I have worked with [clinical professor] Kelly Matson at the school for a long time. Her students come and do internships. She is truly a great advocate,” Houghtaling said. “I think that the school of pharmacy has evolved now to the point where it is not solely about pills, but is about working in conjunction with lifestyle changes and preventative medicine. I am excited about working such proactive partners, and We’re all looking at the earliest forms of preventions and interventions, so that is really useful.”

In all, Houghtaling hopes that the forum will help the community to benefit from the initiative of the ASAPP youth, and that all the residents who attend will be able to benefit.

“This really is all initiated by the kids. I created the template, but the kids have created the language and made it viable, and now anyone can benefit from it,” Houghtaling said. “We want to reduce the stigma of seeking help for mental health issues and so we view this as an empowerment model. Asking for help is a form of empowerment.”

Discussing Mental Health with ASAPP will be held at Cole Middle School on Wednesday, Feb. 26. It is co-sponsored by the East Greenwich Drug Program, University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, Kent County Prevention Coalitions, and the Rotary Club.

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