A district plan for opioid education for students in grades 6-12 was introduced Tuesday by Lee County Schools Superintendent Andy Bryan during the Board of Education’s annual retreat.
Laura Widman, a researcher at N.C. State University, presented the plan “This is (Not) About Drugs,” an education program by Indiana-based Overdose Lifeline Inc., a nonprofit that focuses on people and communities affected by addiction.
Bryan said talks to implement a program in schools began with the first meeting of The Sanford/Lee County Opioid Abuse Task Force earlier this year. Bryan is on the task force along with school board members Patrick Kelly and Ophelia Livingston.
The program is anchored by a 14-minute video that features testimonials from teenagers affected by addiction in their lives or the lives of family or friends. Widman said the program is built for a 45-minute class period and includes a PowerPoint with information and statistics about opioids followed by discussion. The goal, Widman said, is to prevent a first misuse of opioids by these teens.
“I love working with adolescents because I think it’s such an important time to reach young people early and think about primary prevention instead of stepping in after overdoses,” she said Tuesday. Lee County ranked second in the state in June for opioid overdoses by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Widman said she’d like the first year to be a pilot program and to use it as research. She said she applied for a $50,000 grant through the North Carolina Translational & Clinical Sciences Institute that would fund the program and a research study focused on Lee County students. Widman said she should know whether they received the grant by the end of August.
For overall cost, Widman said the program is $500 for unlimited access for a year. To teach the curriculum, presenters would have to complete training, she said, that costs around $300 per person.
Bryan said if the program is approved, parents would have the option to opt their children out if they so chose.
“I think there’s going to be some pushback that says you’re introducing a concept to kids who haven’t even broached (opioid abuse) mentally,” school board member Sandra Bowen said Tuesday. “At sixth grade, they’ve never even thought to take mom’s pain pills.”
Bryan said the opioid epidemic is national in scope, but that it affects people on a personal level. This includes Livingston, who lost a daughter to an opioid overdose in 2016.
“This is a really complex problem which I think requires lots of different solutions,” Bryan said. “I think, for us, we’re in the business of education so we’re trying to do our part.”
Reach Staff Writer Noah Grant at 919-718-1229 and on Twitter at @NoahGrantHerald.