A new pilot program is aimed at preventing opioid and heroin addiction. State Senator Chris Jacobs announced he has secured $50,000 in state funding to support a High School Ambassador Program in Buffalo Public high schools. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the program will promote behaviors to avoid drug abuse.
“If we can make our children understand the severity of this and give them tools to cope with challenges they have,” remarked Jacobs.
Jacobs is co-chair of the State Senate's Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. Jacobs said in the midst of a opioid epidemic, he's learning much of the substance abuse is often caused by mental difficulties.
“In the hearings I've had around the state, when people say it was a mental health issue that got me to try alcohol or marijuana and then leading to more severity in terms of opioids and heroin,” explained Jacobs.
The new ambassador program will be based on the WNY United Against Drug & Alcohol Abuse program called ‘Leadership in Training’. It’s used for middle schoolers and was developed more than 20-years ago.
“What we do is primary prevention - in the classroom during sixth grade we do a curriculum called Too Good for Drugs,” said WNY United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse executive director Beth Anzalone.
They will now work to train student leaders to work with high school students on how bad behaviors can lead to drug abuse.
“But we basically work with them to understand risky types of behaviors and what happens when you don’t have problem solving and critical thinking skills, when you don’t have good communication skills and when you don’t have those problem solving skills that let you avoid those situation,” Anzalone described.
The new ambassador program is slated to begin next July. The Independent Health Foundation will work with WNY United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse to craft the program.
It will incorporate important life skills such self-awareness, self-management and decision-making in hopes of preventing drug use.