As the opioid epidemic rages on, Attorney General Maura Healey is calling for substance abuse prevention education in all Massachusetts public schools.
This week, Healey announced on Wednesday, she’ll tour middle schools across the commonwealth that have implemented Project Here, a public-private initiative to teach Massachusetts students about the risks of using drugs and the ways they can make healthy choices.
Healey is highlighting that program alongside local elected officials, mayors, faculty and students in Newburyport, Haverhill, Braintree and Taunton this week.
“Nothing we can do to fight this epidemic is more important than investing in young people,” she said in a statement. “Through Project Here, more than 200 public middle schools in Massachusetts now have access to substance use prevention education. It’s time to double down on that commitment and make these resources available in every public school in our state.”
Since 2000, there have been nearly 14,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts, according to the state health department. More than 2,100 of those deaths occurred in 2016 alone.
Ninety percent of all adults who struggle with addiction began to use when they were under 18 years old, according to Healey’s office, and 50 percent were under the age of 15 when their substance abuse began.
Educating young kids on these risks can help prevent substance abuse, experts say.
Project Here is a $2 million initiative that was first announced in May 2017. It connects students to a support network of licensed professionals at The Herren Project, an addiction recovery nonprofit. Starting in the fall, students at registered schools will also have access to an app that allows them to learn about substance abuse and practice healthy decision-making skills.
Last week, Healey and the GE Foundation announced a new grant program from Project Here to fund substance use prevention education in public middle schools. Schools can submit proposals at here.world/grant by June 15.
“With partners like AG Healey and support from local municipalities, we’re making real progress in the fight against substance use and the opioid crisis across Boston and Massachusetts,” said Ann R. Klee, president of the GE Foundation, in a statement. “Project Here resources are already helping educate our youth today. These grants provide critical funding to prevent our kids from falling into the vicious cycle of the opioid epidemic.”