A new program coming to Buffalo Public Schools hopes to teach high school students about the realities of the opioid epidemic and give them the skills to avoid falling into addiction.
The effort is an extension of existing leadership programs for BPS elementary and middle school students. Currently, younger students are selected as school ambassadors. They spend several weeks training in the summer to act as role models among their peers.
NYS Senator Chris Jacobs, co-chair of the State Senate's Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, secured $50,000 in funding to allow the program to start expanding to high schoolers.
"It's education to help them understand the essence of addiction and how the brain works. [It] can help them in terms of prevention of opioids and heroin, which is the biggest epidemic we've ever dealt with," he said.
He hopes the program will "stop the pipeline of people coming into an addictive cycle".
The high school program will be modeled after the existing programs for younger students, which are organized by WNY United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Independent Health. A more specific focus on heroin, opioids and drug use will highlight the training for older students.
“A profound aspect of this unique program is that it trains students to become ambassadors to help influence their peers to make better choices for their health and future success,” Michael Cropp, M.D., President & CEO of Independent Health, said.
Counselors, staff and selected students will work together this upcoming school year to develop a curriculum for the high school program. The pilot is expected to launch in July 2019.