A partnership between Dutchess BOCES and the Council on Addiction Prevention and Education (CAPE) seeks to support students in a new way. 
The purpose of this partnership is to help students “develop skills and strategies in a healthy way to deal with trauma as opposed to self-medicating with substances,” shared Denise Dzikowski, BOCES’ executive director for special and alternative education.  

Kayla Montalbo, a school-based prevention counselor from CAPE, will be at BOCES three days a week.  

“My primary goal is to spread education and awareness.” Montalbo said. “Essentially, what we do is try to prevent substance use, and for the students who are actually going through substance use, we work with them on that.” 

This resource is available to students across BOCES, including at the Resilience Academy, Salt Point Center, and the Career and Technical Institute. Students don’t need to struggle with a substance use issue personally to utilize it. 

“I can work with them if they're at risk as well because risk factors for substance use can be anything from bullying or abuse to a mental health diagnosis, and so much more. If they have a family member or a parent who's struggling with substance use disorder, I can also work with them,” shared Montalbo. “I really want to stress that you don't necessarily need to be struggling with a substance use disorder to work with me.” 

There are multiple ways for a student to begin working with Montalbo. “If someone wants to self-advocate, they absolutely can do that,” Dzikowski said. “We also have the referral process if an adult sees that a student is struggling.” 

In addition to individual counseling, Montalbo looks forward to starting group counseling and bringing Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) to the Resilience Academy. The SADD club will begin meeting this March.

“I believe in being client-centered and trauma informed,” Montalbo shared. “That's something I strongly believe in. I strongly take into consideration the trauma someone has been through and how it plays a role in their substance use or just where they are today.” 

The partnership with CAPE is part of BOCES effort to constantly seek new opportunities to improve the students’ experience and contribute to their success. 

“We have the alternative opportunity; what works in a traditional high school doesn't work for every student and we feel like that's our niche,” shared Dzikowski. “We like to be able to go outside the box and meet the needs of the whole child. Anything we can do to make that whole child healthy and happy and successful, that’s what we want to offer.”

Montalbo can be reached at 845-486-4800 ext. 3224.