Students at Centennial High School have been studying how to prevent prescription drug abuse as part of a new health curriculum through an interactive online course.
Kristy Ree, health instructor at Centennial High School, said the timing to launch new material was opportune. The school's health curriculum was already in the midst of being revamped, when the Rite Aid Foundation offered to pay for the new online course.
"Interaction is always good for kids who are accustomed to sitting in front of screens," Ree said.
The course covers material from the effects of opioids, how to recognize symptoms of addiction in friends and family members, and what to do if you or someone you know starts abusing prescription medication, said 15-year-old student Elizabeth Dimitrova.
"It was a really interactive program," Elizabeth said. "There was a voice that walked through everything."
The program, developed by Everfi, a national education technology company, will be made available to high schools in Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties, and paid for by the Rite Aid Foundation. The Rite Aid Foundation is the fundraising arm of the drugstore chain that donates money it raises to nonprofits such as the Children's Miracle Network.
Representatives of The Rite Aid Foundation, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Centennial School District officials announced the launch of the new program during a press conference at the school on Friday, April 5.
"The opioid crisis continues to harm communities large and small across America," Blumenauer said. "Every day that we delay addressing this epidemic, communities decline, families unravel, and lives are lost. We need to help our children understand prescription drug abuse and misuse in order to prevent it before it starts."
The course is aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health Education Standards and state academic standards, according to a press release from Rite Aid. Oregon has one of the highest rates of prescription opioids misuse in the nation.
CHS is one of the first Portland-area schools to integrate the program into its curriculum. Over the next year, 20 high schools in the area are expected to launch the program.
Through interactive scenarios and self-guided activities, students learn the facts about drugs, how to properly use and dispose of them, and how to step in when faced with a situation involving misuse.
"These are vital skills to prevent prescription drug abuse," said Rob Mullins, Rite Aid divisional senior vice president.
While prescription opioid overdoses are declining, opioid overdose hospitalizations have increased slightly.
"Educating our students must include addressing the challenges and real-world issues they face in their daily lives as members of our community, including prescription drug abuse and misuse," said Paul Coakley, Centennial Public Schools superintendent. "This innovative, new program will enable us to prepare our students to make smart, healthy decisions about prescription drugs and empower them to be part of the solution to combating this epidemic."
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