- Partnership leads to innovations in education and safety
- APS also providing substance abuse education
Opioids and substance use continue to challenge communities across the entire nation. In Arlington, an innovative partnership between Arlington Public Schools (APS) and the County’s Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI) is making sure that students, families, and school staff have the information and resources they need to prevent opioid and other substance use related tragedies from occurring.
“Opioid use amongst our youth in Arlington is an issue that requires all of us to come together to provide education and effective prevention measures,” said Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán. “APS and Arlington are collaborating on all fronts to help educate students and families on the dangers of opioids as well as to provide support.”
APS-AARI Partnership Response Efforts
APS and AARI have teamed up on a variety of prevention and substance abuse education efforts to date:
- A K-12 over-the-counter medication safety curriculum has been added this year, which includes information about counterfeit pills and the overdose reversal medication naloxone (sometimes referred to as the name brand Narcan).
- APS substance abuse counselors have trained more than 100 school staff on how to reverse an opioid overdose and AARI provided 65+ boxes of the overdose reversal drug naloxone throughout the schools.
- APS has committed to training APS staff on how to recognize signs of overdose and respond using naloxone. AARI will partner with APS to provide any interested staff member with their own box of naloxone.
- Williamsburg Middle School’s youth-led substance use committee is partnering with AARI to do a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on TV about medication safety.
- APS substance abuse counselors are working with AARI to develop folders of resources for families and to dispense medication deactivation bags to the school community.
- AARI has worked with APS’ athletic department staff to distribute magnets related to injury and prevention of opioid misuse.
- APS substance abuse counselors and AARI have partnered to provide community education via Parent Teacher Association (PTA) presentations, displaying at school events, and through online community presentations.
- Arlington Educational Television (AETV) and an APS substance abuse counselor have produced a training video for staff on how to use naloxone.
Substance Abuse Education
APS health and physical education (HPE) teachers provide students instruction annually that focuses on making healthy choices (goal-setting, communication and assertive skills, responsible decision making) and avoiding health-risk behaviors (e.g., tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, behaviors that result in intentional and unintentional injuries, disease). Health education is grouped into three areas – essential health concepts, healthy decisions, and advocacy and health promotion. Teachers deliver instruction using these strands in topic areas such as substance abuse prevention, mental wellness/social emotional skills, and violence prevention. HPE teachers receive annual professional learning on the risk behaviors and substance abuse trends of Arlington youth. The instruction is engaging and includes guest speakers such as the substance abuse counselors.
APS has six substance abuse counselors who work in middle and high schools across Arlington to provide regular education to students about the risks of substance use as well as resources and services to students and families. APS substance abuse counselors also teach lessons to fourth and fifth grade students, empowering them with information and strategies to make positive choices. They also support family education events at schools and provide training to APS staff about substance use trends. APS has recently expanded training and resources for staff regarding life-saving procedures, such as the administration of naloxone. For more information on substance services, please visit https://www.apsva.us/student-services/substance-abuse-counselors/.
When should I start talking to my kids?
It’s never too early or too late to talk about substance use. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), children as young as nine years old begin viewing alcohol in a more positive way. SAMSHA reports that approximately 3,300 kids as young as 12 try marijuana each day and five in 10 kids as young as 12 obtain prescription pain relivers for non-medical reasons. The earlier you speak to your children about substances, the stronger foundation you are laying down.
Additional resources are also available on the APS website.
AARI, the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative, is Arlington’s opioid and other addictions taskforce, comprised of stakeholders from across the county, including treatment providers, first responders, the justice system, the hospital, and private citizens. AARI was founded in January 2017 in response to the rising concerns regarding opioids in our community and APS has been an active participant in AARI since its inception. Our primary goals are to prevent individuals from developing a substance use disorder, to increase access and awareness of available treatment resources in our community, and to decrease access to opioids through diversion. To learn more about AARI visit www.onearlington.org.
AARI welcomes community input and engagement. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to join the stakeholders group, how to volunteer, or how to schedule educational trainings for your group. To receive the overdose reversal medication, naloxone, free through the mail, visit www.narcanarlington.org