Dupage County implements heroin prevention program in 12 schools

Dupage County implements heroin prevention program in 12 schools

A heroin prevention program is being implemented into 12 Dupage County schools this fall.

The Dupage County Board voted 16-0 in favor of funding a heroin education program to be used in a select group of area schools. The Robert Crown Centers for Health Education’s heroin program will cost the county $67,746.

According to Heroin Dupage, a site sponsored by The Dupage Coalition Against Heroin, after the county saw a decrease in heroin overdoses in 2011, the number of heroin-overdose deaths rose to 38 in 2012, and increased again to 46 deaths in 2013. The site says there has already been 12 heroin-overdose deaths this year.

Heroin is not just a Dupage County problem, but a Chicago problem. For example, Will County has already had 14 heroin deaths this year.

The Robert Crown Center stepped in and created a heroin education program in 2011. Robert Crown introduced their program to 11 schools in four counties of the fall of 2011. Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville decided to add the program to their health class in 2012. According to Neuqua Valley principal, Dr. Robert McBride, their heroin prevention program has three parts.

The first part is the instruction of the program. McBride said the program has become part of the substance abuse unit in the school’s health class. All of Neuqua Valley’s sophomores are required to take the school’s health class. The Robert Crown program provides students assignments both online and in the classroom. As a result, McBride said the school’s health teachers had to undergo three hour training sessions in July 2012 to learn the program’s software.

The second part is educating the parents. Through an initiative called Parents Matter Too, parents have meetings every Tuesday and Thursday in a conversation circle format. McBride said the program has also developed a website for the parents. McBride said, “There is an educational site for the parents, which contains a treasure trove of information.”

The final part is engaging the students. Neuqua Valley High School throws an event every April called, “Confronting the Elephant”. According to McBride, the event will usually feature nine to 12 guest speakers from the Naperville area. McBride said, “We have former addicts come in and talk in a small setting to the 9th grade students. There are eight slots, and usually around 9-12 speakers that feature families from our area. That way it really hits home with the students.”

McBride said it is too early to determine what kind of effect the program is having on Neuqua Valley High School, but there are encouraging signs. One of the lessons in the heroin education program is learning how heroin affects the body. McBride said, “When we surveyed students, we have had very positive results. In our last survey, 92% of the students said they know how heroin impacts the body.”

It appears Robert Crown’s program is getting through to the students, and because of that McBride said he would like to “keep them on”.  If the next round of Dupage County schools feel as positive as McBride, then the Robert Crown program may become a state requirement.