LifeSkills® Training (LST)

The Substance Awareness Center of Indian River County (SAC) is licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide both Prevention level 1 services. 

SAC believes that all youth are capable of success.  Our prevention programs aim to build the skills necessary to achieve success and reduce the likelihood of substance use.  SAC believes all persons should be treated as individuals and with dignity, respect and understanding for their current level of functioning. 

Lifeskills® Training (LST) is our Universal Prevention level 1 program, and it is the only science based universal prevention program in Indian River County. LST is an evidence-based prevention program proven to reduce the risks of alcohol, tobacco, drug abuse, and violence by targeting the major social and psychological factors that promote the initiation of substance and other high-risk behaviors.  This comprehensive program provides adolescents with the confidence and skills needed to successfully handle challenging situations.  The program uses developmentally appropriate and collaborative learning strategies taught through lecture, discussion, coaching, and practice.  This enhances the student’s self-esteem and self-confidence, ability to effectively cope with anxiety, decision making, and resist peer and media influence/pressure.

LST was developed by Dr. Gilbert Botvin and is backed by over 30 years of scientific studies.  It is recognized as a “model” or “exemplary” program by the U.S. Dept. of Education and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.  If the program is implemented with fidelity, it has been proven to reduce drug use and violence by 80%.  At the end of each workday, each facilitator completes an implementation log and a survey monkey to ensure fidelity to the program model is maintained.  In addition, the Prevention Program Director conducts classroom observations to monitoring fidelity and provide feedback. 

The Universal Prevention level 1 program, LifeSkills® Training, serves students in Indian River County.  The program is implemented with full fidelity in all district middle schools (6th, 7th and 8th grade) and 9 of the 13 district schools with 5th grade.  In addition, the program serves one private school.  The program is implemented in the classroom setting (science or language arts) during school hours and days. The program is implemented in the:

  • 5th grade once a week for 8 weeks
  • 6th grade once a week for 15 weeks
  • 7th grade once a week for 10 weeks
  • 8th grade once a week for 5 weeks

During the summer months the program is implemented at the elementary level through summer camps offered at the (3) County Boys and Girls Clubs, Gifford Youth Achievement Center, and Daisy Hope. The program currently reaches approximately 5,000 Indian River County youth per year.

LifeSkills® Training Program Goals:

  • Delay the mean age of on-set of first substance use (the earlier the first use, the greater the risk for developing addiction). 
  • Increase the practice of healthy coping/social skills of program participants by 50%.
  • Decrease, or at minimum, maintain the past 30-day trend of substance use by Indian River County LifeSkills® participants. Trends are derived from the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.

The program staff is comprised of 5 Certified the LifeSkills® Training Facilitators.  They are led by a Program Director who is also a certified Trainer of Trainers for LifeSkills® Training. 

To learn more, reach out by phone or email to 772-770-4811 or [email protected].

The Substance Awareness Center of IRC

The Substance Awareness Center sends trained LST Facilitators into the middle and elementary schools in Indian River County as well as some summer camps. The program continues for 16 weeks in 6th grade, 12 weeks in 7th grade, 5 weeks in 8th grade and 8 weeks in 5th grade.  The middle school curriculum covers these topics:

  1. Self-Esteem:  Self-esteem builds confidence and allows students to look at both their strengths and weaknesses.  Students learn how to improve their behavior and/or set realistic goals for themselves.
  2. Decision-Making: Students learn to pause and think about the consequences before making decisions.
  3. Information on Tobacco, Alcohol and Marijuana:  Facts about these three gateway drugs are discussed because most adults with a dependency on them started using them before they turned 18.
  4. Advertising:  Students learn to recognize the manipulation tactics and lies that advertisers use to persuade people to buy their products and services.
  5. Violence in the Media: Students learn how to check the media presentation on violence against reality.
  6. Dealing with Stress:  Stress is a part of everyday life; therefore, students practice relaxation techniques to help them manage their stress in positive, healthy ways.  One of these techniques is ‘deep breathing’ which they practice on a regular basis with a ‘moment of silent reflection’.
  7. Communication Skills:  Students learn how to communicate effectively by making sure both the sender and the receiver of the message interpret the message in the same way.
  8. Social Skills:  Students practice good social skills so they can develop successful relationships.
  9. Assertiveness:  Students learn how to stand up for themselves and to resist pressure from friends and/or the media in our culture.  They also learn how to believe in their ability to say ‘no’ even if others are trying to persuade them to change their minds.
  10. Resolving Conflicts:  Students practice conflict resolution skills by using words rather than physical or verbal violence.

The elementary school curriculum follows the same topics listed above, except for ‘Violence in the Media’ and ‘Information on Alcohol and Marijuana’.  All curriculum has been research based and taught for over 30 years world-wide.

Check out the Botvin LifeSkills Training website here:

Health and Happiness

Each LST Facilitator is dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of every child in our community.
Click here for fun and simple ways for both you and your child to stay healthy every day.


The LST Parent Academy

The LST Parent Academy will provide speakers on a variety of different topics that are pertinent to parents.  Our speakers will come to you at your home and/or school and can train adults in the following areas:
1. Better communication with your child
2. The dangers of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, especially on the developing brain
3. The developing brain and decision making
4. Coping skills for anxiety and anger
5. Smoking cessation classes (either a 6-week program or a one-time Tools to Quit workshop, lasting 2 hours)

  • Please see your child’s principal for more information

Our Partners

  • The LifeSkills® Training Program (LST) is one of the only prevention programs to reduce the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.  It has shown to reduce bullying, violence, delinquency, teenage pregnancy and HIV infection.  It has been selected as an exemplary, research-based prevention program by such distinguished organizations as the:  American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and National Centers for Disease Control.
  • Trained LST Facilitators go into all the 8 different middle schools and many elementary schools.  We work closely with the School District of Indian River County.
  • SAFIR (Substance Abuse Free Indian River) is a coalition that is federally funded and brings together 12 sectors of our community to provide a county-wide effort dedicated to creating a healthier community free of substance abuse.
  • We work closely with other agencies dedicated to keeping our children and community safe and free from the dangers of substance abuse.  One of those agencies is the Tobacco Free Partnership of Indian River County, Florida.


  • No One’s House is a parent-to-parent campaign that works to reduce the number of parents in a community who are providing teens with alcohol and/or allowing teens to drink in their homes.  Parents can take the online ‘pledge’ to not willingly allow underage drinking in their home and promise to not provide alcohol to teens.  Parents can then view what other parents in their community have made the same pledge.
  • Friday Night Done Right (FNDR) is a Social Norming Campaign that promotes the message that most teens do not drink and use drugs to have a good time. Our community hosts ‘Friday Night’ events for teens that are fun, educational, and alcohol and drug free.  Additionally, every Friday night, there are a variety of local businesses that will give discounts to teens who mention the FNDR program.
  • The ‘Talk. They Hear You.’ Underage Drinking Prevention Campaign empowers parents and caregivers to talk with children early about alcohol.  This campaign helps parents with talking points and clear information.  It is based on research that shows parents are the leading influence on their child’s decisions about alcohol. Although it may not seem like it, when parents talk about underage drinking, their children do hear them.


Our Staff and Participating Schools

Our team of Certified LifeSkills Training facilitators includes:

  • Christina DeFalco, Program Director and Facilitator at Gifford Middle and Vero Beach Elementary
  • Darleen Medeiros, Facilitator at Sebastian River Middle, Fellsmere Elementary, Gifford Youth Achievement Center, and Boys and Girls Club- Sebastian
  • Dr. Marylin Richardson-Pryor, Facilitator at Oslo Middle, Glendale, Youth Guidance and Boys and Girls Club- Vero
  • Suzanne Barkett, Facilitator at Storm Grove Middle, Dodgertown Elementary, and Boys and Girls Club- Fellsmere
  • Catherine Damutz, Facilitator at Citrus Elementary, Indian River Academy, Liberty Magnet Elementary, Osceola Magnet Elementary and Treasure Coast Elementary

The Substance Awareness Center has partnered with the Vero Beach Police Department and the Sebastian Police Department in teaching Botvin LifeSkills Training. Vero Beach Police Department has Certified LST facilitators teaching at Beachland Elementary and Rosewood Magnet schools. Sebastian Police Department has Certified LST facilitators teaching at Pelican Island and Sebastian Elementary.