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Community Joins Together to Add Substance Use Prevention Curriculum in Orthodox Jewish Private Schools
By Ariel Hurley, Technology Transfer Specialist, NY & NJ
Lianne and Etiel Forman requested help creating substance use prevention curriculum.
Back in April 2018, Lianne and Etiel Forman, who have a child in recovery, held a
substance use awareness event in their New Jersey community. They expected 50 people.
Seven hundred showed up. From that meeting an idea was developed—to add a substance use
prevention curriculum to the area's seven middle schools and six high schools. When the couple
learned of STR-TA, they immediately went to the website and made their request for help in
developing a curriculum for the eleven private schools. "We don't have enough good things to
say," Etiel says. "The flexibility of the (STR-TA support) to help us achieve our goals was
Prior to contacting STR-TA, the Forman's created a group comprised of community
champions, including an influential rabbi, an Addiction Psychiatrist, and several
psychology/guidance department heads across the schools. The group anticipated some push
back from the schools' administrations, but found instead enthusiasm and cooperation. The
schools that are part of this program are private and in competition with one another. But in
this case, they agreed a common, consistent, and evidence-based curriculum was needed. The
high schools had already banded together with a national coalition of Orthodox schools to
implement the Communities That Care model. When STR-TA team got involved they provided
them with educational materials, TA provider consultant, and local resource lists to
supplement their efforts. The middle schools, however, had no consistent curriculum—if they
had a curriculum at all. "Our dream is to create what is a unified curriculum," Lianne said.
The middle schools noted a need beyond prevention education and are exploring a full
scale social-emotional learning curriculum. Administrators agreed it was important to not only
address substance use, but the emotional development of youth, including bullying and the use
of social media.
STR-TA conducted a needs and capacity assessment amongst the middle schools to
further gauge buy-in and examine programs already in place. All schools stated a desire for a
more robust, evidence-based prevention curriculum; protocols for addressing students with
substance use concerns; continuing education for their teachers; and parent engagement plans
to alert them of current drug trends. The middle schools are now reviewing several curricula
provided by STR-TA and will choose one in the coming months. The Formans hope to have the
curriculum in place by fall, 2019. "We're incredibly grateful for all of the work STR-TA has
done," Etiel said.
Lessons gained from this process include recognizing the value of utilizing a
multidisciplinary team; the importance of collaboration with various community stakeholders
(e.g., parents, teachers, etc.); and confirmation that it is more than possible for a community
movement to emerge from the strength and bravery of one family.