WV AG Drug Prevention Program Reaches Nearly 5,000 Students

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West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s expanded partnership with colleges in West Virginia reached more than 4,600 students this semester as nursing and pharmacy students teamed with his office to visit middle schools across the state.

“We received positive feedback from numerous teachers, principals and guidance counselors,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Students were actively engaged, asking questions and sharing personal stories. In fact, many of the students indicated they already have been prescribed an opioid painkiller. That reality motivates our effort and underscores the need to connect with this age group.”

The initiative, launched in March with West Virginia University’s School of Nursing, expanded this fall to also include Marshall University’s School of Nursing, West Virginia University’s School of Pharmacy and Shepherd University’s Department of Nursing Education.

That broadened the program’s geographic reach and enabled the team to visit 27 schools during the fall semester. The program is set to reach more students this spring and potentially add partnerships with other colleges.

“About one in four of our students from grades 7 through 12 can name a friend or family member who has overdosed or died as a result of opioid overdose,” said Patrick Leggett, counselor at Point Pleasant Jr./Sr. High. “Opioids don’t discriminate, and the students see it but may think it won’t affect them. We are grateful Attorney General Morrisey’s Office is doing this program, since the drug epidemic is something people often don’t want to talk about.”

The Attorney General’s Office coordinated events and provided the college students with a detailed curriculum, which they then presented to eighth grade students. The curriculum covers multiple aspects of the opioid epidemic, including the connection between prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction, prevention and the long-term impact of drug use.

The program was well-received by school administrators, including North Middle School Principal Rebekah C. Eyler of Martinsburg.

“With the White House Office of National Drug Control documenting that 90% of today’s adult addicts started using drugs during their teen years, I believe offering 8th grade students this information is critical,” she said upon the program’s visit to her school.

The collaboration with each university represents one initiative through which the Attorney General has sought to combat West Virginia’s drug overdose death rate. It follows last year’s widely successful Kids Kick Opioids public service announcement contest, also targeted at raising drug prevention awareness with elementary and middle school students.

Other efforts include criminal prosecutions, civil litigation, major change of drug policies, multistate partnerships, awareness initiatives, engagement with the faith-based community and a best practices toolkit endorsed by more than 25 national and state stakeholders.

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