Bold Move in Pennsylvania’s Drug Education: Technology and Prevention Messaging Unite

Prescription bottle on tablePhoto by Kevin Bidwell on

HARRISBURG, PA — In a groundbreaking move to combat the devastating scourge of opioid misuse and prescription drug abuse, two national organizations are joining forces for a powerful new initiative aimed at the youth of Pennsylvania. The Truth Initiative, renowned for its successful youth tobacco and opioid prevention campaigns, and EVERFI from Blackbaud – synonymous with creating social impact through education – are jointly unveiling ‘Prescription Drug Safety: Know the truth.’

This digitally driven educational initiative, backed by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General through the Community Drug Abuse Prevention (CDAP) grant program, will instruct students from grade levels 8-12 about the perils of mishandling prescription drugs. But the focus isn’t limited to just the dangers. The program will explore the potential impact of drug misuse on several aspects of the student’s life – physical and mental health, personal relationships, their immediate communities, and ultimately, their futures.

The issue of fentanyl overdosing has reached crisis levels nationwide – Pennsylvania included. This synthetic opioid alone was implicated in a whopping 84% of the reported adolescent drug-overdose deaths in the last two years, a total surpassing 2,200 cases. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey discovered that over 12% of high school students across the country, and 9% within Pennsylvania, admitted to past misuse of prescription opioids. Worse, almost half that number confessed to misuse in the previous 30 days.

The ‘Prescription Drug Safety: Know the truth’ program will equip students with essential knowledge about the correct use of prescription drugs, the pitfalls of misuse, the potential to become addicted, and the dangers inherent in fentanyl and counterfeit drugs. Kathy Crosby, CEO and President of the Truth Initiative, optimistically notes, “By educating students about the dangers of fentanyl, we are giving them the power to stay safe and protect others in their communities.”

The course’s launch aligns with increasing state permissions for schools to keep naloxone on hand – a potent medication capable of quickly reversing opioid overdoses. In Pennsylvania, about 53% of school nurses now stock naloxone.

This concerted effort from EVERFI and Truth Initiative is timely. With the youth fentanyl crisis escalating and incidents of prescription drug misuse on the rise, the initiative seems primed to make a substantial positive difference. The program, featuring authentic peer-to-peer interactions in real-world scenarios, will reach approximately 250,000 students countrywide in this academic year.

A recent independent study endorses EVERFI’s Prescription Drug Safety course. The study found that the course consistently improved knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding prescription drug safety across genders, races, and demographics.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry believes in the power of the initiative, saying, “We all have a collective responsibility to show up for the youth and help them reach their full potential.” For schools, the course is available at no charge, offering students experiences to make informed, safe choices about their own lives and wield a fighting chance against the burgeoning opioid and fentanyl crises.

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