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SAFE's Substance Use Diversion Program Partners with Local Schools for Lasting Impact

SAFE Coalition’s ongoing school partnership program is helping hundreds of local teens better understand their decisions related to substance use.  An alternative to traditional school suspension policies, Up in Smoke’s diversion-based program invites students for three full-day, in-person, small group classes.

SAFE's Substance Use Diversion Program Partners with Local Schools for Lasting Impact

With trained staff who meet in-person with five students at a time, making Up in Smoke the only program of its kind in the region. Founded in 2022, the program has logged over seven hundred hours helping more than 130 teens seek a recovery plan for the use of nicotine, marijuana and other controlled substances.

Emma Kelley, SAFE’s Director of Wellness, says emphasis on connection rather than suspension is the program’s key to success. “Instead of taking away their community, we offer them a chance to create a community with other students and explore their coping mechanisms,” she says.

Up in Smoke builds on the highly regarded Stanford curriculum to help students discover freedom and self-respect through daily habits. According to Kelley, coursework is designed in a way that “gives students a chance to think critically about the reasons behind why they are using substances, and to build tools they can use to cope with difficult situations in their life.” 

Participants in the program report that the course provides greater perspective and a sense of camaraderie. "I felt very safe here,” says one program graduate, “I never feel comfortable sharing anything with my parents or therapists but I really felt comfortable here."

“Up in Smoke” arrives at a critical moment in Massachusetts, where legislation passed in 2022 calls on public schools to use alternatives to suspension that “re-engage the student in the learning process.”

Jen Knight-Levine, CEO and founder of SAFE, values Up in Smoke’s alignment with the requirements of Law C.71. “We are thrilled that The Mass Department of Secondary and Elementary Ed values the practices of restorative justice, social-emotional wellness, and mediation as we at SAFE do,” she says. “These requirements enhance every child’s ability to learn decision-making and buffer the impact suspensions can have on a child’s success.”

While other programs encourage behavioral change through online coursework, Up in Smoke values true growth and self reflection through a highly interactive face-to-face approach. 

Any student may be referred to the “Up in Smoke” program. To refer a student for an upcoming session, visit our info page.

School administration interested in bringing Up In Smoke to your school for the 2024-25 school year can learn more here or email


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