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Services for Youth and Young Adults with Substance Use Disorders (Addiction to Drugs and/or Alcohol)


Do you suspect that your son or daughter is using controlled substances? 

Parents, teachers or caregivers who suspect a child or youth, 18 years of age or younger, is using controlled substances are advised to contact the nurse, psychologist or counselor at the school that the child attends. By doing so, intervention or treatment services may be initiated.

Treatment Types 

  • Voluntary Treatment
    The DHS Office of Behavioral Health pdf.gif Where to Call directory contains information about agencies that work with persons under the age of 18 who have decided to seek treatment for their substance use disorders.
  • Involuntary Treatment
    If a person 18 years of age or younger is in need of treatment for a substance use disorder (drug addiction), but will not seek it voluntarily, the law allows for his/her involuntary treatment, according to Act 53. The youth’s parent or guardian should direct inquiries to the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Drug/Alcohol Unit SCA Case Managers, 412-350-3328, 412-350-3952 or 412-350-3441.

Youth, Substance Use and the Law
The commonwealth of Pennsylvania requires that counties provide a continuum of services for children and youth, 18 years of age and younger, who have substance use disorders. The continuum must offer Prevention, Intervention and Treatment services.

Prevention services are offered in the community and in the schools. Community fairs provide opportunities to reach entire neighborhoods with a prevention message. Schools, from elementary to secondary, host assemblies to educate students about the effects of using controlled substances.

Intervention is initiated based on referrals from school personnel, family members or the child. Each school district in Pennsylvania is mandated to provide Student Assistance Program (SAP) intervention services to students. Most school districts in Allegheny County support a publicly-funded SAP. Through SAP, individual students may meet with behavioral health therapists one-on-one or in group settings. SAP liaisons specialize in mental health concerns and/or substance use (D&A) concerns. When a youth is referred to intervention services, a SAP team is established. The team consists of the student, the referring individual (often a teacher), the SAP agency liaison, the school counselor, and the principal or vice principal of the school. Working as a team, the student is supported in his/her efforts to make healthier choices.

Treatment of persons 18 years of age and under for substance use disorders may be voluntary or involuntary.