Substance-abuse awareness and prevention efforts have been standard in schools for decades, from the anti-drug movies of the 1970s to the familiar DARE officers in the classrooms well into the 2000s.
Today, as a result of the opioid epidemic, the State Department of Education has put together a collection of resources available to schools. Titled “Curriculum Resources for Educating Children about the Dangers of Substance Abuse”, the report is available on the NJ Department of Education website.
The collection of age-appropriate curriculum and lesson plans includes a curriculum developed by Wellspring Center for Prevention, called Footprints for Life.
The list doesn’t really break new ground: Many of the resources posted on the state Department of Education’s website are existing programs that have been consolidated to ease access.
Footprints for Life helps young children build a strong foundation of life skills rooted in key social competencies. The social competencies that Footprints addresses are planning and decision-making practice, interpersonal skills, cultural competence, peer pressure, and peaceful conflict resolution - assets identified as promoting positive attitudes and behaviors.
Footprints is an evidence based six-week program taught during a regular classroom period for approximately 40 minutes each week. Weekly homework assignments and educational sheets not only reinforce the lessons between classes, but also involve parents in their child's learning experience.
“By providing schools with these opioid curriculum resources and expanding the educational opportunities for students battling substance abuse,” said state Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington, “New Jersey children will know more about the health risks associated with opioid use, persevere through recovery, and be empowered to seek help for themselves or others.”
The resources are not limited to opioid abuse. The programs for younger grades barely mention opiates but focus more on decision-making skills. In the middle grades, it’s as much about the alcohol as narcotics.
Since 1980, Wellspring has been a leader in the ever-more scientific field of prevention science. Far from telling youth to “Just Say NO,” we pledge to only provide services we can demonstrate change behavior for the better. Done correctly, every $1 invested in prevention returns up to $18 in savings to society.
Wellspring offers several school-based addiction prevention programs. In addition, the agency also offers customizable presentations for school in-service programs, and parents, on a variety of topics.