A family of support at The Landing

It’s a Thursday afternoon at the end of July and the common room here is full with the sound of teenagers playing video games, each taking turns playing the winner of the last round. A table overflowing with snacks and school papers is at one end of the room. In the room next door, carrel-style desks provide quieter space for reading, studying, and tutoring. On the chalkboard wall, giant letters make it clear what this is all about: “In this place, with these people, I feel safe.”

This is The Landing, a Sheppard Pratt Health System-operated after-school recovery clubhouse for Montgomery County youth between 12 and 17 years old who are currently receiving substance abuse treatment or have recently been released from treatment.

“In my previous situation, I had been in and out of juvenile detention centers,” says K., a wiry 15-year-old. “When I came to The Landing, I had already set my goals to switch everything around, that I wasn’t going to be ‘that kid.’ So I came here and I liked it, it was something new because my history was…different.”

The Landing staff support youth as they navigate recovery, work to finish high school, and prepare to start careers. The Landing also gives youth a chance to participate in positive, alternative activities like art, cooking classes, computer workshops, and yes, video games.

Alma Sanchez (left) graduated from high school last fall with the help of The Landing’s dedicated staff, including program director Evelyn Saim-Lobos (right).

It doesn’t take long to see how significant this type of approach can be for the young people who participate.

“I struggled with school a lot; I was always not putting school first, always putting bad decisions before school,” says Alma Sanchez, one of The Landing’s alumni. “The day I found out I wasn’t going to graduate from high school on time, I came here. I came and sat down in Evelyn’s office and I said, ‘I don’t want to go to summer school. No way, I don’t want to deal with this, I’m just not going to graduate.’ She said, ‘You’re going to get through it.’” Evelyn and other members of The Landing’s staff worked to make sure Alma got enrolled in the classes she needed. By the fall, she had passed all her classes and had enough credits to graduate.

“The day that I graduated,” Alma explained, “I asked Evelyn to come. She’s always been so supportive, and she was the main one who said, ‘You need to go to school. You need to do it.’ So she was there when I graduated, and I just felt so accomplished, with people who were there to support me.”

Alma isn’t the only participant who has recognized that The Landing’s staff help in a way that goes above and beyond simple casework.

“I was treated like family here. I see these people as my family,” said K. “Being here for a year and some change makes me feel like I’ve been here for a long time. These people here treat me like one of their own.”

The Landing, a collaboration between Montgomery County Public Schools and Sheppard Pratt Health System, serves Montgomery County youth ages 12-17. The program serves youth who are currently receiving substance abuse treatment or have recently been released from treatment. Participants are typically referred to The Landing through the Screening and Assessment Services for Children and Adolescents (SASCA), Juvenile Drug Court, Department of Juvenile Services Intake and Probation, Montgomery County Public Schools, local nonprofits, and substance abuse and treatment Programs. Walk-ins are always welcome and eligibility for membership will be determined upon individual referrals. Visit The Landing’s website to learn more.

All of the work that is done at The Landing is part of a continuum of comprehensive services and supports with a youth-friendly approach that’s a hallmark of the members of the Montgomery County Collaboration Council’s Inter-Agency Team (IAT). The IAT is a partnership of 19 organizations and agencies who work together to impact the trajectory of youth and young adults of transition age with mental health challenges throughout Montgomery County. Every member of the IAT —including The Landing — is working to help youth transition to healthy adulthood, to connect youth and families to peer support, and to change the conversation around youth mental health.

This partner highlight is brought to you by the Inter-Agency Team. If your organization serves transition-age youth and young adults in Montgomery County, fill out our short application and consider becoming a member.

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