Newark, New Jersey — LEAD Charter School of Newark was selected as one of 50 schools to pilot  the new “Real Talk” SBIRT national initiative, sponsored by YouthBuild USA in conjunction with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. 

SBIRT — or Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment — is an established evidence-based approach to drug prevention and substance abuse intervention. This model has been used throughout the Garden State since 2012, but now it’s being introduced into schools like LEAD, allowing educational spaces to join the fight against addiction. 


“YouthBuild has always understood that our students’ health and wellness is pivotal to change and transformation. By introducing this invaluable resource to the LEAD community, we’re creating more avenues for young people to find the stability they need to transform their lives and their communities,” said Robert Clark, Founder and CEO of the Newark Opportunity Youth Network.


By mid-November, five LEAD staffers—two advocate counselors, an academic interventionist, LEAD’s school nurse and Managing Director of Network Services Jasmine Joseph-Forman—will be trained on drug prevention and intervention best practices, and motivational interviewing. They’ll also be given strategies to properly engage students that are using drugs as a coping mechanism for other childhood adverse experiences. The training will assist staff in developing in-house strategies for moving youth towards sobriety and if needed, referral to treatment.


“We know how insidious substance use can be in our community. It bars our young people from job placement and leads to a cycle of incarceration. Drug use can often mask deep-rooted traumas that snowball into larger mental health issues,” said Llesenis Soto, Director of Student Support Services at LEAD. “But as LEAD continues to promote an internal culture of sobriety,  with the SBIRT model as a resource, we have access to new tools that ensure our students have the best opportunity to live a clean, successful and sober life.”