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How one local school is teaching every single student the dangers of opioid abuse

Posted at 9:13 PM, Apr 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-13 21:13:34-04

A new law is on the books in Ohio requiring every single student, regardless of grade level, to learn about the dangers of opioid abuse.

However, as News 5 first reported, many schools across Northeast Ohio are struggling to navigate the state mandate.

A new curriculum is in the works right now, but until it rolls out, schools like Berea-Midpark are on their own.

Sadly, some of the students there have seen the fallout of heroin first hand.

"Someone I personally know OD'd on heroin," said Sophomore Jacob Rhodes.

Teachers are dealing with it as well.

"I've come across students that have battled addiction," said Larissa Will. Will is a health teacher at Berea-Midpark High School.

"I'm a firm believer in knowledge is power," she said.

For nearly 20 years, she's been on the front line of the war on drugs. It's a fight now reaching a feverish pitch.

"There's a ton of people using heroin, OD-ing on it," said Rhodes.

The State of Ohio is now requiring schools to beef up training for teachers to help combat the heroin epidemic, but a major hurdle stands in the way.

"There's a cost component," said Will.

It's not just the training that comes with a price tag.

"Organizations provide these materials at a cost for us to use with our students," said Will.

Right now, a first of its kind curriculum, created by four Ohio universities, is about to roll out.

The Health and Opioid-abuse Prevention Education, otherwise known as HOPE, will help districts fill the current void.

"So that we can all get trained correctly. So that we can apply a consistent and accurate message to the students, no matter the ages they are," said Will.

Until then, a free resource online is helping Will reach her 10th grade students.

"It encourages me to talk to my baby sister about it," said student Joy-Nicola Homan.

Homan, along with many of her classmates, support the idea of starting opioid education well before high school.

"You have to start at a young age, teach them how to say no, or teach them why it's bad. We want to know why don't do it, not just don't do it because we say don't do it," said Homan.

The principal at Berea-Midpark tells News 5 they are interested in being a pilot school for the HOPE curriculum.

Educators in Northeast Ohio will start receiving training this spring, with the goal of rolling it out into the schools this fall.