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State task force recommends schools educate all grade levels on substance abuse
By Kat Tenbarge
The Columbus Dispatch
(February 10, 2017) — Teaching students of all ages social and emotional learning is a crucial step toward combating Ohio’s drug addiction crisis, Attorney General Mike DeWine suggests.
The Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education issued 15 recommendations Friday for schools across the state. These include requiring schools to report how they are teaching students to resist drug abuse.
“We know that opioid addiction knows no boundaries,” Senate President Larry Obhof said. “It doesn’t care about your income level, it doesn’t care about your race, it doesn’t care about what community you live in. This brings tragedy every day to every community in Ohio.”
DeWine stressed that a cultural shift toward normalizing heroin abuse creates a need for greater education about prescription opioid abuse prevention and the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.
Social and emotional learning includes understanding and managing emotions, achieving positive goals, showing empathy for others and making responsible decisions, according to the recommendations, which are available online. Students already are taught this type of curriculum in these areas until third grade, but the committee recommends it be taught throughout all grades to reduce addiction risks.
While none of the recommendations will be mandated or supported through state funding, DeWine expressed hope the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will provide guidance to schools, as well as local law enforcement and community services.
“There is a growing group of people in Ohio who cannot be employed, or at least cannot be employed in any job where they have to drive a truck, drive a lift truck, be around machinery or have any kind of responsibility,” DeWine said.
He referred to the economic drain as a problem that could be alleviated through youth programs such as before and after school activities that encourage drug-free messages, as well as community surveys to assess preventative methods.
Joint committee members found that many communities and school districts have already begun implementing substance abuse programs, and the committee will continue to meet to further compile the most effective strategies found.
DeWine will host a statewide meeting titled “Ideas in Motion — Fighting Ohio’s Drug Epidemic” Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Fellowship Baptist Church, 4701 Winchester Pike, Columbus, OH 43232.
He said last year’s event was successful in connecting communities to preventative methods that help stem the heroin crisis, and encouraged interested parties to attend.
“At least eight people are dying each day in Ohio from accidental drug overdoses,” DeWine said. “This report will serve as a road map to help implement comprehensive substance abuse prevention programs.”