As we have noted before on this blog, a necessary step of combating the opioid epidemic is going to be more intensive education and prevention methods. Preventing the next generation of kids from experimenting with opiates could drastically reduce the number of addicts. Luckily, Maryland is taking this seriously.
The Start Talking Maryland Act
The Start Talking Maryland Act was passed early in 2017, and will take effect as a law on July 1st. Part of the law requires public schools to stock naloxone, provide employee training on naloxone use, and report naloxone administrations to the state. This will not only provide protective measures for potential overdosing students, but will better enable the state to track overdoses and their prevalence. Perhaps more importantly, though, the law will require public schools to include drug education in their curriculums, with a focus on heroin and opiates, as early as elementary school. This education will be required once between 3rd and 5th grade, once between 6th and 8th grade, and finally, again between 9th and 12th grade- so, once each in elementary, middle, and high school. These same education and prevention measures will also be required of any collegiate institutions or universities that accept state funding. Despite intensive efforts on the part of the state to combat the opioid epidemic, including doctor education, expanding naloxone access, better monitoring of prescription drugs, and attempting to increase access to treatment via helplines and help centers, the addiction problem in Maryland shows no signs of improvement. Increasing a focus on education and prevention measures to stop future addicts before they start is a fantastic idea that will hopefully show some benefits in the coming years.
Educational institutions across the state are in support of this legislation, and are already in the process of coming up with ways to comply. Some of these educational incorporations will include drug-focused orientation sessions for incoming college students, online courses, and age-appropriate curriculums for grade school students, that highlight the dangers and potential devastation of using opiates. State grant funding for many counties is being used to purchase books and other educational materials for students and parents. Further, many counties either have or plan to team up with local pharmacists, law enforcement, and importantly- parents, to send a strong and fact-driven message to kids.
This law will likely be a huge step forward in the fight against addiction. While it may take some time for the effects to be seen, hopefully state and educational leaders persist and do everything they can to let students know from a young age just how dangerous heroin and other drugs can be.