Students at the Homer Middle School participated in a new drug prevention program this week. The initiative aims to teach students that addiction is a preventable disease.
The Kenai Peninsula Youth Court helped put the curriculum together. Executive Director Ginny Espenshade explains that the prevention effort will focus on addiction in general rather than on one particular substance.
“We thought the information that we wanted to give students didn’t have to be concentrated on one substance because the trends change over time, and if we’re really trying to prevent by giving them alternatives to using substances, then the message is the same no matter what the substance is,” she said.
The Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic has also been involved. It’s Youth Resource & Enrichment Co-op program will provide high school students to help teach their younger peers about preventing addiction. Espenshade explains that she wants students to understand that while addiction is a disease, they can make good choices to prevent it.
“Which is a lot more cost effective and a lot easier to prevent someone from becoming addicted than it is to work on being healthy and get into recovery from the addiction,” Espenshade added.
A panel of community members and professionals will also be on hand to talk with students. Panel members range from a local defense attorney to a probation officer and a former addict.
Seventh and eighth graders will cycle through the three-day program throughout the school year. Espenshade says that will allow organizers to fine-tune the curriculum with each new group of students.
Other schools around the Southern Kenai Peninsula have already inquired about the program, but Espenshade notes that she wants to work out the kinks before bringing the curriculum elsewhere.
“The hope is that eventually we’ll use the same approach and some of the same terminology with some of the same strategies with some of the lower grades, fifth and sixth grade,” she said. “[We] also might bring it up in the high school health curriculum so there’s a consistency.”
Espenshade adds that she plans to make the curriculum available to any school that’s interested in the future and hopes it will be adapted around the state and the Lower 48.