Students observe as a Manlius Fire Department member simulates life-saving assistance to the victim of a mock drug overdose.
Fayetteville-Manlius School District staff members are joining forces with community organizations to educate students about the dangers of opioid abuse.
In June, Eagle Hill Middle School hosted “See Something, Say Something, Save Someone,” a two-hour workshop that through education and interactive activities puts more information about substance abuse dangers and prevention into students’ hands.
“We want to build trust with students and encourage open communication,” Eagle Hill Principal Maureen McCrystal said. “With the opioid and heroin epidemic growing nationwide, it’s critical to have these discussions.”
In 2015, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency announced that for the first-time drug overdoses surpassed motor vehicle deaths as the leading cause of accidental death in the country. More than half of the 55,403 lethal drug overdoses reported that year were caused by opioids, which includes prescription painkillers, heroin and morphine.
McCrystal said alarming statistics and close-to-home incidents prompted her to reach out to local organizations, including the Manlius Fire Department and central New York’s Prevention Network, to see what more could be done to educate students about drug abuse risk factors, opioid abuse warning signs and prevention resources.
“This is not a problem that only happens elsewhere,” McCrystal said. “Drug abuse affects all segments of society and cannot be predicted by background, family income, class, race or achievement level.”
The Eagle Hill program was divided into four 30-minute sessions, which were led by medical technicians, Prevention Network representatives, F-M staff members and a community member whose family has been tragically impacted by substance abuse. Throughout the sessions, students listened to presentations, asked questions, participated in comradery-building exercises and observed emergency medical technicians respond to a mock overdose.
During her opening remarks, workshop presenter and F-M parent Judy Frank shared with students that a drug overdose recently claimed her son’s life. She said some of her son’s friends were aware of his drug abuse, but were too afraid to tell anyone.
McCrystal said part of the prevention program encourages students to report unusual or concerning peer behavior to a trusted adult. It also aims to open communication lines between students and their parents and guardians, which according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse could help reduce the likelihood of teen substance use by as much as 42 percent.
“The problem will not go away on its own,” McCrystal said. “A truthful conversation is better than no conversation at all.”
F-M’s Wellwood Middle School plans to host a similar event during the 2017-18 school year, Principal Melissa Corbin said.