Opioid Awareness and Prevention
Heroin and Opioid drug dependency surged in Maryland over the past decade, resulting in an urgent and growing public health threat affecting all demographics and geographical settings in the state. The Allegany County Public School System is working diligently to address the growing problems of heroin and opioid addiction.
ACPS is represented on the Overdose Fatality Review Board, Opioid and Heroin Prevention Taskforce, Opioid Summit, and the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council.
ACPS has worked with the ACHD to increase the number of staff trained to administer Naloxone. There have been several mass trainings attended by administrators, athletic trainers, athletic directors, school counselors, central office staff, and school teachers through the Opioid Response Program in which those trained were provided a voucher for a Naloxone kit to be used within schools. Additionally, those attending the training are currently in the process of facilitating online trainings with the rest of their respective staffs, so that others in schools will know how to utilize the Naloxone provided to their school, should there be an overdose on site, either during the day or at an after-hours school sponsored event.
ACPS has hosted an expert panel that discussed the opioid crisis as part of the annual Superintendent’s Advance. The panel was comprised of experts in the field of addiction, treatment, grief counseling, community involvement, child welfare, and resource support.
ACPS has partnered for the past two years with local agencies and community support groups to hold the Prescribe Change 4 Miler. This is an event for all ages aimed at promoting awareness of the crisis, supporting those struggling with addiction, as well as those in recovery and providing local agencies and organizations an opportunity to highlight the resources they can provide to combat the crisis. In the last two years, there have been more than 200 runners and walkers to participate in the event. It has been estimated that in addition to the runners and walkers, hundreds of others from the surrounding community have attended the event as well. The event is held annually on Labor Day at the Eugene Mason Complex in South Cumberland and is now sponsored by the Queen City Striders.
ACPS has partnered the last three years with the Sheriff and Chris Delaney and Becky Meyers of the Health Department to hold staff trainings at all schools, as well as presentations in high school health classes each semester. During the past year, there have also been student presentations at all four middle schools for eighth graders. Presentations highlight not simply the crisis in the community, but also strategies for prevention and other options for treatment and recovery.
Additionally, ACPS is currently partnering with the ACHD to implement additional methods of enriching the health curriculum, as well as increasing access to prevention counseling through the execution of two separate grants. The curricula materials and counseling services will hopefully be introduced to the schools in the coming months.
Two ACPS school counselors and one elementary health and PE teacher attended training on Self Care and Group Support: A Community Approach put on by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine at Allegany College of Maryland. This one-day workshop was designed to present the fundamentals of self-care and group support to health and human service professionals, educators, and community leaders in Allegany County. The goal was to help members of the community integrate self-care and group support into their preventative and therapeutic efforts for the people with opiate abuse and addiction and their families to foster a culture of wellness in Allegany County. The two school counselors will provide the information to the other counselors at an upcoming meeting, and the health and PE teacher will do the same with her colleagues.
ACPS has incorporated grade band instruction at the elementary, middle, and high school levels to provide age appropriate curriculum relative to the opioid crisis. ACPS was a leader in the state as the instruction was developed and implemented prior to legislation, which has now made this a statewide mandate. For this, the ACHS, ACSO, Cumberland City Police, Frostburg City Police, school health nurses, school counselors, and SROs are all owed a debt of gratitude. It was through the collaboration of all the aforementioned that this curriculum was developed and provided to the students.
Three years ago, through the assistance of now SRO and at the time Narcotics Detective, Jeremy Hedrick, ACPS partnered with Mr. Rick Hamilton, local advocate and recovering addict, along with Officer Chris Golliday of the Cumberland City Police, to provide students in high school health classes a real-life story of how addiction can impact anybody and how addiction does not discriminate. This presentation also provides students with a story of hope, highlighting Mr. Hamilton’s path out of active addiction, and Officer Golliday’s support for a friend in need. During the last three school years, Mr. Hamilton and Officer Golliday have reached close to 2,000 students with their story.
Lastly, across the system from an instructional standpoint, teachers, support staff, and administrators have and continue to seek professional development to increase their capacity to provide instruction and support to their students who have been impacted by addiction and death within their family and home. On a personal level, these same educators have provided students and families with everyday necessities, support, and compassion. ACPS staff realize that although they cannot control all of the bad things which go along with this crisis, they can and do make their classrooms as well as the school day a place where they are welcome, supported, safe, and loved.
All of these efforts highlight the vast work of many who over the past four years have worked within the school system to raise awareness of the crisis, increase prevention initiatives, and provide additional access to services to support students and families.