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D.A.R.E. Prevention Curricula to Help York County Combat the Opioid Crisis
By Sheriff J.D. "Danny” Diggs and York County School Superintendent Victor Shandor

Every month, the Nation’s law enforcement and emergency services respond to 1000’s of calls in response to overdoses from opioids. By the time we’re involved, far too often permanent harm has occurred, and too often it’s too late for treatment to save someone’s life. Those reached in time then struggle with a powerful addiction, one that many people never overcome. What’s needed is prevention to keep people from misusing or abusing these incredibly addictive drugs in the first place. This is especially important for young people, whose developing brains make them susceptible to lasting damage.

The tools already exist to reduce this clear threat to our community and beyond. For the past 35 years, D.A.R.E. has been taught in schools by uniformed law enforcement officers resulting in the education of tens of millions of elementary, middle, and high school students. Now D.A.R.E.’s curricula include Opioid and Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention lessons— so that we can stop the crisis from taking hold at the source: in schools and homes.

Here in York County, we’ve taught the D.A.R.E. curricula for 32 years, reaching tens of thousands of students. Currently, two highly trained officers deliver D.A.R.E.’s prevention education program. Because opioid abuse knows no boundaries, the time is now for D.A.R.E.’s prevention lessons to be delivered statewide, particularly since all of its curricula are highly cost effective and its new opioid prevention lessons are FREE to D.A.R.E. communities.

D.A.R.E.’s keepin’ it REAL elementary and middle school curricula were developed by the Pennsylvania State University and Arizona State University, with the assistance of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. D.A.R.E.’s high school curriculum, myPlaybook, was developed by Prevention Strategies, University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

D.A.R.E. created its new opioid and prescription drug abuse prevention lessons in response to the current, ongoing epidemic, which, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), results in seven deaths every hour from opioid-related drug overdoses, amounting to 175 people per day and cumulatively more than 64,000 by the end 2016. According to an HHS study, substance abuse prevention programs, in addition to saving lives, would save state and local governments $1.3 billion over two years and an additional $33.5 billion in substance-abuse-related medical care nationwide.

A great deal of attention has been paid to the hazards that children in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms in York County, throughout Virginia, and across the country today face, including bullying and Internet safety, not to mention the fear of school violence. We may not be able to prevent all of these problems, but there’s no reason not to do what’s been shown to work to prevent drug use, addiction and related deaths.

Clearly, our community for several years has stepped up and recognized the value D.A.R.E. brings to our school children. Now we need to expand that commitment to include teaching D.A.R.E.’s new Opioid and Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention lessons at not just the elementary and middle school levels, but also in our high schools.

Today, every law enforcement agency in America is seeking ways to build positive community relations. Clearly, while the issues and challenges are complex, drug use prevention education should be a leading strategy. D.A.R.E has incorporated features in its education programs to build trust and create positive relationships between law enforcement, students and their parents, helping develop and reinforce community-based prevention and communityoriented policing with children and families.

It is time for all students statewide and beyond to receive D.A.R.E. programming to give them the decision-making skills that will equip them to lead safe and healthy lives. The cost of failing to do so will be staggering.


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