A closer look: Wilson’s substance abuse resources


Photo obtained by The Beacon

Amelia Bergeron

In light of the recent incident with student drug use at Wilson, teen drug consumption has grabbed public attention. Within a high school setting, this is not hugely uncommon, and often involves marijuana use or pill consumption. “A lot of the time, people use substances to cope,” said Wilson Social Worker Lacey Maddrey. DCPS and Wilson have numerous systems in place to assist students with substance abuse issues.

Coping with difficult experiences socially and familially can often be difficult to navigate for adolescents. “I think experimentation is a normal part of any adolescence, but having support and being able to talk to people about it- when and if it becomes a problem- I think is really important,” Maddrey said.

According to DoSomething.org, “By the eighth grade… 16.5 percent [of students] have used marijuana.” Excessive drug use can affect people negatively in school and at home, and it can sometimes cause people to make poor decisions.

At Wilson, there are multiple personnel that can help with substance abuse. The school is equipped with four social workers–one per grade level–in addition to Dr. Perette Arrington, a Department for Behavioral Health (DBH) Clinician. “As the social work team, we provide mental health services to students at all grade levels,” Maddrey said. Students who need help may be referred by their counselors, deans, parents, friends, or they can seek help themselves.

Wilson also provides specialized counseling for students who struggle with substance abuse. This school year, Maddrey and Kimberly Wilson, the 11th grade social worker, ran a group called Cannabis Youth Training for seven weeks that focused on helping individuals struggling with marijuana use.

If a student requires additional resources, they may be referred to the DBH or intensive outpatient programs such as Potomac Pathways. “[Potomac Pathways does] individual counseling; you do family therapy; you do group therapy; and you get your drug screens… as a part of that treatment,” Maddrey said. Unfortunately, DC does not have many affordable options for adolescents, creating an economic barrier for such programs.

Maddrey thinks that it would be advantageous if Wilson had in-house specialists for these issues. “Next year, we learned in the budget that we should be getting a social worker and a half,” meaning there will be someone who works full time and someone who works part time. “Maybe we could have that person focus a little more on that sort of work,” Maddrey said. She also thinks communication between other staff at Wilson and the social workers could be beneficial and allow for more students to be helped in the future.