Opioid crisis and education: What's being done?

A look into what schools are doing to stop the 115 people from dying daily

One hundred fifteen people are dying every day from the nationwide opioid epidemic, according to the CDC.

How do we stop it? Experts say one of the main ways is education. So what are local schools doing and how has the opioid crisis impacted them? WZDX News investigated.
"What have you guys done in school to learn about drugs?" asked reporter Renata Di Gregorio.

"We haven't really done much," said Jaelynn Nicholas. "In counseling."
"That's the only place that we really learn about drugs,"  added Peyton Joiner.
Jaelynn and Peyton learned about drugs when Jaelynn's mother, Kristin, died from a fentanyl overdose at the age of 27.

"It does surprise me because it's become such an epidemic that they don't do more at school," said Kristin's mother, Becky Joiner.

Jaelynn and Peyton are in the 5th grade, which in many schools is where the drug education starts with a class and the anti-drug campaign Red Ribbon Week.
The piece one substance abuse expert believes is missing: teaching consequences.

"I teach a class here and one of my soap box pieces is that I don't think we do that in schools enough. And that's not to blame schools," said Darin Geiger, executive director at Family Services Center. "I have a white board and everybody will just start firing away and we'll put them up there and it really becomes very obvious when we're done with that all the different elements of our life that can be affected."
Geiger, like Becky Joiner, believes drug education should start with parents. But to learn the latest drug trends, like about fentynal, the drug up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, heads turn to schools.
"Since fentynal has been found here in the Tennessee Valley do you believe the drug education is keeping up with the opioid epidemic?" asked Di Gregorio.

"I'd like to think that it is," replied Officer Patrick Salvail, school resource officer with the Huntsville Police Department.
Officer Salvail says doctors he knows are good about telling families not to take more medicine than they're prescribed.

He tells personal stories to teach Huntsville High School students in an elective class up to eight times a year. Since these classes are elective he doesn't reach every kid.
Two hundred adolescents were treated for addiction last fiscal year at the NOVA Center for Youth and Family.
Huntsville City and Madison County School officials turned down requests for interviews.
Since the opioid crisis began, the school resource officer at a Madison City School updated his PowerPoint for 5th graders to include fentanyl.
"Well it's got this fentanyl in it so it doesn't take any of it hardly so it kills them, it stops their heart, and that's why we've had so many overdose cases," Officer Charles Lorch told the class.
In high school things get more in-depth.
"Talking about life choices, making good decisions," explained Sylvia Lambert, principal at Bob Jones High School. "And talking specifically about scenarios that students may find themselves in."
Lambert brings in speakers and drug programs focus on building relationships between students and SRO's. Some programs are for the parents.

"We are trying to build student leaders," Lambert said. "And as those student leaders affect and impact other students within our school we know that that's affecting our culture in a really positive way."

Possibly one future student leader is Jaelynn. The opioid epidemic impacted her entire life. Her grandmother wants it to impact school curriculum more so more children don't have to learn the way she did.
"I know two other kids who lost their parents to drugs," Becky Joiner said, who works with the group Not One More Alabama. "They're not realizing how big of an epidemic it is."
CDC research shows drug overdose deaths in teens ages 15 to 19 are mostly unintentional. In 2015 more than 770 adolescents overdosed.

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