The Opioid Response Network (ORN) recently worked with seven high schools and middle schools in Oregon to deliver prevention programming focused on marijuana, fentanyl and vaping. This came out of a request from the Columbia County Public Health Department for help with youth engagement in substance use disorder prevention education, which was part of an overall effort to establish a relationship between the school district and health department.
ORN worked with Suzie Beaupre, Health Promotion Specialist and Jessica Kosydar, Community Health Worker to create a series of pep rallies. The local health department, police, EMS, peer support staff, school nurses, superintendents and mayors were all involved. Community members rallied together with students across several school district to talk about substance use and local support services for students who may be struggling. Jessica shared that “the events really helped us break the ice with schools, get to know key personnel, show we are a resource that follows through, and, most importantly, spread awareness amongst our youth. The rallies were a way to open the door, let the students and staff know we are here, and start conversations.”
Jerria Martin, an ORN Consultant and the Executive Director of Drug Free Communities in Selma, Alabama, and Sarah Canavese, MPH, MCHES, the ORN Technology Transfer Specialist for Oregon, guided the activities. Jerria opened each assembly with a rap to introduce herself and lead the conversation. She talked about brain development and what happens to an adolescent’s brain when they start to use illicit substances. Sessions were interactive and wrapped up with a “drug free summer” pledge that students repeated back to Jerria. Jerria, reflecting on the process of working with students, said that she “encourages others to think outside the box. A lot of the time drug preventionists get put in a box. My goal when working with kids is to meet them where they are.”
Each school had positive things to say about the effectiveness of the program and asked the Columbia County Public Health Department to continue to provide this education moving forward. “I can’t express how much it eased us knowing we didn’t have to worry about the caliber of the event we were bringing,” said Jessica. The team plans to continue this efforts, as well as assist other counties and school districts that want to develop a similar program.
Could your school district benefit from this type of programming? Share your needs using the submit a request button and ORN will get in touch with you to learn more.