The Doctors discuss a new initiative in Ohio to teach children about the dangers of the opioid crisis. The program is called HOPE and it stands for Heath and Opioid Abuse Prevention Education. It begins in kindergarten and goes through high school.
The Doctors invite one of the creators of HOPE, Kevin Lorson, to share more about the program and explain why he feels it’s not too early to start educating children on this.
Kevin knew the impact that the opioid crisis was having on young kids with the numbers they were experiencing in Ohio which is the epidemic epicenter. He felt like there was something to do and asked the question, “How can we help?” They went to work on the HOPE curriculum and received a state grant.
Dr. Melina Jampolis says she has a hard time understanding the need to start the conversation so young and can’t imagine kids have the maturity to discuss it. Kevin shares that there is a misconception about the program and clarifies that they don’t really talk about opioids and drugs early on. The kindergarten lessons focus on healthy choices, defining who trusted adults are and basic decision-making skills. He says it’s a misnomer that it’s called a drug education program because it really focuses on healthy choices.
Kevin further adds that the skills stay the same throughout K-12 but how they are implementing them and the knowledge has to be more advanced as kids get older because they are presented with those opportunities. In addition, the curriculum is designed for teachers but they are talking about building out support that will include parental education as well.
OB/GYN Dr. Nita Landry went to Ohio to investigate the opioid crisis and wants to emphasize that while it may seem to some people that the program is taking innocence from children she believes it’s not. She says it’s actually the opioid epidemic that did that.
Dr. Landry notes that while trying to solve the problem of this epidemic, we may unintentionally forget about the young children affected by seeing their parents overdose or finding needles in their homes. "It’s sad, but some populations need to have this conversation," says Dr. Landry. Dr. Jedidiah Ballard adds that he has seen first-hand as a full-time emergency physician the way young kids are affected by opioids and agrees, they need to be educated.
Dr. Landry asks Kevin if he thinks the problem will get better before it gets worse. Kevin shares that they have data in the Dayton area about unintentional overdose and it has gone down – from 15 deaths in March to 81 deaths in May the previous year. However, they are seeing an increase in drug use. Even though HOPE is an opioid curriculum, the focus on making healthy choices will be important. He thinks it may not be solved but it will get better and there is hope!
Here are some resources on how to have these tough, but important, conversations with your kids.