Counselor put focus on adolescents

| Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Teens find it easy to talk to treatment specialist Jaime Harmon.

An ARC Manor counselor for adolescents in Armstrong County who have used drugs and alcohol, Harmon gets the kids chatting about the little things in their lives — “How are your friends? How's your family? What's up at school? — and pretty soon she's made a friend.

Then Harmon can focus on the bigger questions — “What got you involved? What can you do differently? How can you improve your decision making? Are you abstaining from drugs and alcohol?”

The children she sees are ages from 12 and up but primarily 15 and 16 years old.

“A lot of my adolescents open up to me really well,” said Harmon. “I've always had a good relationship with them. They're willing to tell their story to me. They like to share. They like to talk about what they've done. I make it specific to them, what affects them and talk about it.”

The approach seems to work for Harmon as well as for a new adolescent services program which she directs at ARC Manor in Kittanning. The program just finished its first year and it's being called a success by officials there.

ARC Manor officials say there is no other program like it in the area.

ARC Manor is a nonprofit agency dedicated to the prevention, education, intervention and treatment of abuse and addiction to alcohol and other drugs such as tobacco.

The adolescent services program is in partnership with the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission.

Harmon, 27, who has a degree in sociology from Seton Hill University and a master's degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh, has been a treatment specialist at ARC Manor for three years.

When Harmon decided she wanted to focus on helping adolescents, Arc Manor Executive Director Cindy McCrea was able to find a grant to support the program.

Harmon said the one-year grant ran out at the end of 2012 but she is still carrying on the program only in a different manner.

During last year, Harmon would go to several pediatric care offices around the county on a regular basis.

A lot of her initial work involved assisting and educating pediatricians of what to look for in their patients.

When doctors identified any of their adolescent patients who needed services for drug, alcohol and smoking use, Harmon would meet with the teens and begin counseling there at the doctors' offices.

Most of the adolescents come to the doctor either because they got into some trouble in school or with police, or their parents caught them doing something with drugs or alcohol and they had to get some sort of treatment to get out of trouble.

Not only was Harmon able to build up good relationships with her adolescents, she also made an impression on the doctors.

Once the doctors knew about the ARC Manor program they called on Harmon.

“I was able to get the doctors on board,” she said. “They have been very willing to work with me. They've been very open. The doctors around here are very good.”

In 2012, Harmon counseled eight adolescents through the program.

Since the end of the funding, the only thing that has changed is that Harmon spends less time visiting the pediatric offices around the county and more time at ARC Manor or at the pediatric clinic in Leechburg with the adolescents who have been referred to her.

Harmon still calls on all the offices but less often and meets adolescents for the first time there upon referral.

“So far we've been good that if a doctor has identified someone for counseling, the adolescents have been willing to come to our office,” said Harmon.

Harmon has had three new referrals this month since the end of the funding.

Parents can either get their children into the program through their pediatrician or directly with ARC Manor by calling 800-323-1333 and asking for Harmon.

“I want the program to get out there,” said Harmon. “Most of our population starts using drugs and alcohol as adolescents.”

“So by having this program, it's showing them that they can come and talk to somebody so they can get off the path of drug and alcohol use,” she said.

Mitch Fryer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

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