Stand Together has been recognized as an innovative mental and substance use disorders anti-stigma program in Allegheny County. Stand Together believes it has a lot to offer schools outside Allegheny County that are struggling to deal with a myriad of mental health and substance use issues. Not only is Stand Together seeing students get educated about stigma and treatment, but teachers and administrators as well.

In Stand Together, a small group of trained students create projects to educate their peers and on occasions, faculty, about these disorders, stigma, social inclusion, and treatment. When given the freedom, Stand Together has seen students develop innovative ways to educate schoolmates because they know what their peers will respond to, which is why the project planning process is student driven. Anti-stigma education research is very clear—short-term interventions are not effective in changing stigmatizing attitudes and behaviors among youth. This is why Stand Together takes place throughout the school year.

Over its eight years of operation, Stand Together has learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work in educating students about mental and substance use disorders, stigma, and social inclusion. We’ve done the hard work developing separate curricula for middle and high schools, as well as other project-related materials. Our curricula are based upon anti-stigma education research and keep students engaged using a variety of activities. Stand Together has created  different project guides that walk students through the project planning process. These guides are structured so that students don’t feel overwhelmed by the planning process, but also allow them to customize their projects to fit the needs of their school. This way, no two projects are the same even though they use the same toolkit.

Stand Together is looking for schools and other funding entities to partner with to start Stand Together chapters in other locations.


Individual Schools

If you are a school and want to start a Stand Together chapter, Stand Together staff can conduct its training virtually with your Stand Together student core team. One silver lining of the pandemic was it forced Stand Together to adapt its training to a virtual platform which we used with our schools this year. Virtual training can be done in two, 4 hour sessions or three, 2.5-3 hour sessions.

For additional information, contact Mike Gruber at michael.gruber@alleghenycounty.us.


Government, Foundations or Private, Not-for-Profit Entities

Stand Together can work with governmental entities or private funders in two different ways.

Option 1: State or local mental health or educational funders or service providers may want to pilot Stand Together in one or two schools to try it out and limit financial investment. If that’s the case, Stand Together would work with you in much the same way described above in the Schools section. The local entity would have responsibility for initiating contact with a school(s) and arranging a meeting with Stand Together staff. Stand Together staff would meet virtually with the school to explain the program, just as we do with Allegheny County schools.

Option 2: Train-the-Trainer. State or local mental health or educational funders or service providers may want to see Stand Together implemented in multiple schools. To accomplish this, Stand Together would train a trainer(s) who would go into schools and conduct trainings just as our staff do in Allegheny County.  It is a Stand Together requirement that the trainer is a person who has lived experience with a mental and/or substance use disorder, has been or is involved in treatment, and is comfortable sharing her/his recovery story. The training package includes the use of Stand Together’s curricula, training PowerPoints, project toolkits,  posters, and sample forms along with technical assistance. Stand Together has used this model with several counties in western Pennsylvania, which are starting to conduct their own school trainings.

For additional information, contact Mike Gruber at michael.gruber@alleghenycounty.us.