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A Novel Approach to Opioid Prevention in Schools

Beth Hess - Friday, June 16, 2017
Many schools have been reluctant to incorporate a strong opioid prevention education component into their curriculum for fear that they will be perceived as having an opioid problem. Carroll County schools are an exception. In addition to heroin and opioid prevention programming developed by the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, a number of middle schools reached out to Beth Schmidt, who joined MCF as a Family Peer Support Specialist – Substance Use in August 2016, and asked her to share the story of her son, Sean.

Sean attended middle school in Carroll County and was a graduate of Liberty High School. He was an avid baseball player and fan, artistic and well-liked. Nonetheless, Sean developed a heroin addiction while in his early 20s. Sean died of an opiate overdose in December of 2013, after more than one year of sobriety. He was 23.* 

Beth tells Sean’s story to middle school students against the backdrop of a collage of photos of Sean at different ages -- from an infant to a young adult playing baseball. Beth says “it put things in perspective when they see his middle school picture and he looks just like them. It really sinks in that addiction is everywhere and it can start anywhere.” Beth encourages students to ask questions and talks “with” them rather than “at” them. The presentation is highly interactive and always gets high marks from students.

Fortunately, opioid prevention efforts in schools will be expanding. A bill from the 2017 legislative session, the “Start Talking Maryland Act,” will require school systems to include opioid prevention content in the curriculum starting in the third grade. 

*Sean died of a fentanyl overdose, an opiate that is many times more powerful than heroin, when he thought he was using heroin.  The introduction of fentanyl into the drug market is one reason for the great increase in overdose deaths over the last few years.  See this video

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