Your Opinion: Drug abuse education needed in schools

Dear Editor:

Two years ago, a heroin epidemic was brought to the attention of the public as well as all drug abuse issues. Town hall meetings were held in conjunction with the Heroin Overdose Prevention Education program. Many arrests have been made in this area since then. Drug abuse at all levels was addressed and many people have reached out to decrease the prevalence of drug abuse.

While there are different accounts on the decrease or increase of heroin, one thing has not changed. In 2011 Cole County Ambulance reported 72 ambulance runs related to overdoses. In 2013 the number was 86. This is not all heroin related but it is all drug abuse. The National Center for Disease Control reports that a young person dies every 19 minutes of an overdose. This is a national epidemic.

We have had community meetings, speakers are attending schools to educate on this topic, law enforcement agencies are busting their tails to curtail this on the streets. Drug Free Youth Council presents workshops and encourages kids to live healthy lives. We also have the DARE program at the elementary level. All of these groups and activities are helping but it’s not enough for the size of the problem.

Our schools need required drug abuse courses in the middle school and high school. We spot hit this problem in a health class, baseline training in one grade and a speaker here and there.

We have driver’s education in some schools to save lives essentially. One youth dies every four hours in a car accident. This pales in comparison to the overdoes stat. Parents are as naive to this trend as well. They need programs to educate themselves. We also need mental health experts and programs in the schools. Most schools do not have them. As I travel and speak, I find how many are afflicted and how many are clueless to this issue.

Last, this issue has been attacked from the supply side, meaning arrests. You can arrest dealers every day but as long as the demand is there, another supplier from another city will take their place tomorrow.

The only way to improve this problem is to stop the demand by our youth, through prevention education.

This is a public health issue not a criminal issue. Let’s be proactive not reactive any longer.