Masonic Model Student Assistance Program (MMSAP)
Inoculating Our Schools Against Drugs and Violence
The bottom line of MMSAP is the saving of young lives.
The impact of this program on the education of the individual being helped can be life saving, both literally and in terms of becoming a responsible, happy and productive adult. It is possible a whole community could be spared the trauma of a disaster such as occurred in a Littleton, Colorado High School. The old proverb about an ounce of prevention is epitomized in the training teachers receive in the MMSAP Seminars. Thank you, Brother Masons, for supporting one of the world’s most worthwhile programs for helping hurting kids.
Drug use, alcohol abuse, and suicides are problems in school districts all over our nation. These problems are affecting young people at all economic levels. Most school districts and municipalities have some type of program to educate children on the evils and consequences of the use of alcohol and drugs.
Community agencies offer help to those who get too involved with mind altering substances. However, very few school districts or communities approach these problems at what could be called “the entry level’, or even recognize the basic reason many young people turn to drugs, alcohol, and suicide.
The Masonic Model Student Assistance Program (MMSAP) is one of the few preventive programs that does attack the problem at the entry level. It is the reason MMSAP has been so successful in other states. We Masons are saving young lives all over our nation. It is the reason Masons in South Dakota must continue to support MMSAP. We have the most successful program in the state for preventing suicides and drug and alcohol abuse among children. Did you know that South Dakota is one of the leading states for suicides among young people? Young people turn to drugs and alcohol and suicide for similar reasons as will be explained.
Depression and stress are major factors in poor school performance and in early use of mind altering substances. A recent paper from Johns Hopkins University states that depression afflicts 1 to 3 percent of elementary and middle school children, and 5 percent of teens. Youngsters who develop depression and/or anxiety are three to four times more likely than their peers to have drug or alcohol abuse problems by their mid-twenties.
Kids know it is wrong to use drugs or to abuse alcohol. But if a kid is hurting and depressed because of a dysfunctional family, or for some other reason, and someone persuades them they will feel good and forget their problems if they get a little drunk, that kid is going to try it. The therapy does help for awhile. The same for drugs. And so the process starts.
There are early signs of depression and anxiety in children that, if recognized, can be addressed early. The intervention process can be started long before the child comes to the attention of authorities because of deportment or drug/alcohol use. That is what the Masonic Model Student Assistance Program trains teachers to recognize—the early signs of depression and anxiety. The program also trains teachers how to start the intervention process. Process is accentuated because it is a long-term procedure, particularly if the root cause of the depression cannot be controlled, i.e., a dysfunctional family.
When it occurs, most parents are not aware their children are in a state of depression or suffering from anxiety. It is the teachers who are in the best position to observe and recognize the early signs of these stresses. Teachers are with children for hours every day and can see changes in behavior patterns that clearly signal an existing problem.
In the recent tragic school shootings, teachers retrospectively said they knew there was a problem with the children involved, but didn’t know they could help and didn’t know what to do. Those children were hurting so much they tried to hit back at the society that was causing their pain. The MMSAP Seminar shows teachers (and counselors and administrators) how each school can set up a team of people trained in the techniques of recognizing the hurting child and how to start the healing process.
This program was first developed in Pennsylvania in 1984. Drug use and the number of suicides among school aged children dropped drastically. It was so successful that today, by law, every school building in the state must have a team of teachers and staff trained in these techniques. The program has spread to twenty-six states. The first MMSAP Seminar in South Dakota was held in Watertown January 5, 6 & 7 1999. It was attended by teams from 14 school districts. Since then South Dakota Masons have held two training sessions per year attended by teachers from all across the state. Comments from teachers have been very complimentary. Some long time educators said it was the most interesting and informative seminar they had ever attended.
Could the schools in your community benefit from this training? If any Lodge in South Dakota would like to have a speaker to promote MMSAP at a Lodge meeting, a committee member will be available to speak and answer questions. Just contact the Grand Lodge office.
The Masonic Model Student Assistance Program was developed by two specialists working in the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Larry Newman and Thomas Stecher developed a program to enable teachers to identify students at risk of suicide and who were in the early stages of using drugs or alcohol. Armed with their success, the program has been expanded and updated for use in South Dakota.
MMSAP Works in South Dakota
The program has been implemented in South Dakota schools and educators praise the program and the Masons who make it possible. Universally those who have attended the workshops tell us that when the “Core Team” in a school is formed and begins work, success follows and problems which young people are experiencing decrease.
How You Can Help
To make the Masonic Model Student Assistance Program available to more teachers, counselors and administrators, we must increase our voluntary contributions. Dues money is no longer used for this program.
You may give directly to the SD-MMSAP by sending a check to the Grand Lodge of South Dakota. You may also contribute to SD-MMSAP through the South Dakota Masonic Charities (a 501 (c) 3 corporation) which enables you to make a tax-free gift for a specific Masonic philanthropy such as MMSAP or simply to the South Dakota Masonic Charities as an investment in all Masonic philanthropies with the interest accruing from the investments to be used on an annual basis.
You are always welcome to visit a SD-MMSAP workshop. There, you will have the opportunity to watch the educators and the workshop presenters. There will be opportunities for you to ask questions of the presenters or your MMSAP Coordinator outside the session.
National Masonic Foundation for Children