- In the wake of a nationwide opioid crisis, a free, science-based curriculum centered on the risks of the narcotics was released by the RAND Corp., a nonprofit independent health policy research program.
- The opioid misuse and heroin curriculum includes a student-involved lecture, role-play activities and homework to review with parents. This curriculum can be downloaded at ProjectALERT.com and is one of 14 lesson plans on drug and alcohol prevention, all geared toward middle school students.
- The lesson plan was tested in classrooms during the spring, and it underwent randomized controlled trials so developers could use student, teacher and facilitator feedback to improve it. Developers say teachers should use this lesson now, but they plan to conduct a larger study to take another look at how effective the project is on preventing youth substance use.
The numbers tell a scary story: One-third of teenagers believe there’s nothing wrong with misusing prescription drugs “once in a while,” according to EVERFI, an education technology company. Barely any school district in the country is unaffected by the opioid crisis, and school leaders are looking for new ways to address the issue or stopping it before it starts, when possible. While comprehensive prevention efforts are needed in high schools, the earlier you can get through to students, the better.
Middle-school-geared programs like RAND Corp are helpful, but school leaders will have the most success in approaching both ends of the problem. That means educating students early to prevent opioid use and serving as a conduit to services to students already affecting by the damaging effects of addiction in their families.
The Federal Commission on School Safety focused much of its discussions on providing stronger mental health support to schools, and many states are redoubling efforts to weave these resources into the fabric of schools. By working with state or regional providers who are paid by health insurance companies or through Medicaid, school leaders in a number of states are finding they can provide a site for these increasingly needed services at a negligible expense to the district.
Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools in North Carolina has secured such a partnership. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, 50 schools now have embedded treatment counselors to serve students whose parents or other relatives are struggling with addiction. The therapists, who are employees of Gosnald – a large provider of addiction services in the state – also advise teachers on how to best interact with affected kids. While each school pays an access fee for a counselor, the actual cost of the individual sessions are absorbed by health insurance or donated by Gosnald.