What is a SAC?

Many people have probably heard the term SAC before but for many parents/guardians and community members it is not clear what they do or is their one at every school?

Student Assistance Counseling (SAC) is a comprehensive and integrated joint school-community program for prevention, intervention, support, and referral services to students in the areas of high-risk behaviors such as the use of substances, self-harm, personal struggles, and other mental health concerns. The SAC/Wellness Counselor can help by working with the student directly, collaborating with the teacher, or both. The SAC/Wellness Counselor can also communicate with the student’s family or other professionals when appropriate. The SAC/Wellness Counselor aims to provide all students with the knowledge, attitudes and skills to cope with these obstacles and develop a healthy lifestyle. The SAC helps students take a look at their life-style, identify negative consequences, and guide them toward making better choices. Providing mental health support and referral to services is an integral part of our counseling department's mission in promoting the well-being of each student. The SAC partners with a network of community services and agencies, creating a coordinated effort to promote a continuum of care and services for all students and families

The Student Assistance Coordinator (Counselor) provides a safe place for you to discuss any problems you may be experiencing.

The Garfield School District employs Student Assistance Coordinators (Counselors) who provide expertise in the following areas:
  • Family or School Problems
  • Peer and Social Problems
  • Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs (Substance Abuse)
  • Anger Management
  • Bullying/Cyberbullying
  • Family Transitions
  • Child Abuse & Neglect
  • Community Resources
  • Domestic Violence/Relationship Issues
  • Depression/Mental Health Awareness
  • Eating Disorders
  • Stress or Anxiety Management
  • Gang and Violence Prevention
  • Grief and Loss
  • Peer Mediation/Conflict Resolution
  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Injury
  • Sexual Abuse/Sexual Harassment
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Emotion Management
  • and more...

NJSA 18A:40, NJAC 6A:16-3.1.

The New Jersey Administrative Code (§18A:40) requires policies for suspicion of substance use among students.  This policy is predicated on a knowledgeable staff—both in terms of familiarity with common drugs of abuse and their related symptoms, as well as response procedures.  The SAC is specifically trained in all mandated subcomponents of these statutes, including staff training on current trends, signs and symptoms of abuse, knowledge of local and community organizations that are available for the prevention, early intervention, treatment and rehabilitation of individuals who show symptoms of substance abuse, legal guidelines for the implementation of substance abuse policies, and the ability to interview students suspected of abuse in order to assess a student’s current level of drug/alcohol involvement.

Some Commonly Asked Questions about SACs:


What is the difference between a School Counselor and a SAC?

While all students are assigned a school counselor, not all students meet with the SACs. The SACs work with students who are referred to them. The primary goal of SACs is to support students' social emotional and mental health needs so that they can achieve as much as possible in their academic life. 


How are students referred to the SACs?

Students can be referred to the SACs by a teacher, counselor, case manager, or administrator. Additionally, students can also refer themselves. 


Are my conversations with the SACs confidential?

Confidentiality does apply to students who meet with the SAC, with limitations. The limitations of confidentiality are if a student says that they are thinking of harming themselves, if a student says that they are thinking of harming someone else, or if a student says that they are being abused, even if that abuse took place in the past. In those cases, the SAC is legally and ethically obligated to break confidentiality in order to ensure the safety of the student. 


According to a very strict Federal Regulation (42.CFR), the Student Assistance Counselor cannot disclose to anyone any information that a student discusses with them, without the permission of the student. 

However, there are a few exceptions to this law. If a student tells the SAC that they wishes to hurt themselves or anyone else, actions must be taken to prevent this from happening. Also, if a student discloses that abuse is happening to them, the SAC counselor has the obligation to report the abuse.

With this confidentiality law, students feel more comfortable disclosing information to their counselors. In most cases holding information in and letting it build can have a detrimental effect. The SAC gives the students the opportunity to vent in a safe place where they know the information will not leave the office.

Confidentiality for Substance Abuse professionals is located in the Federal Regulations, Title 42, (42 CFR).  With regard to school-based substance abuse professionals, this authority is referred to in the New Jersey Administrative Code, 6A:16-3.2 wherein it states: “Each district board of education shall assure compliance with the following confidentiality requirements:

1. Confidentiality of alcohol and drug abuse patient records, pursuant to 42 CFR part 2; and 

2.Confidentiality of information provided by...a secondary school student while participating in a school-based drug and alcohol counseling program which indicates that the student's parent or other person residing in the student's household is dependent upon or illegally using substances..."

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