COLUMBUS — With Ohio in the midst of an opioid epidemic, a state panel recommended Friday that students from kindergarten to 12th grade be taught about the dangers of drug use and that schools be required to report how they’re meeting requirements for drug abuse prevention education.
Law enforcement and drug treatment efforts have received considerable attention but aren’t enough to fully deal with the opioid crisis, Attorney General Mike DeWine said as he announced the committee’s 15 recommendations.
“We’ve got to start with prevention. We’ve got to start with education. We’ve got to get in front of it,” DeWine said.
The committee, which has studied the drug-education issue since August, included lawmakers, educators, and representatives from law enforcement, the health care community and state agencies. Its report is being shared with the governor, legislators and school officials in hopes that they’ll help support and implement the recommendations.
Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof said addressing the opioid crisis is a priority for lawmakers, but he didn’t yet have specifics about any legislation in response to the report.
Ohio already requires schools to include prescription opioid abuse prevention in health education and teach about the dangers of using drugs, alcohol and tobacco, but implementation varies because no specific curriculum is mandated statewide. Surveys aimed at getting more information about if and how schools incorporate drug education haven’t drawn enough responses to give state officials a clear statewide picture, DeWine said.
Committee members called for more consistency, recommending that schools provide age-appropriate, evidence-based drug education for all grades — with specific curriculum decisions still made at the local level — and that the state start requiring schools to report back about substance abuse education efforts. The panel also suggested that schools incorporate substance-abuse education in subjects other than health; increase partnerships with law enforcement and community coalitions on prevention efforts; and involve families and peer leaders.
It recommended that Ohio extend existing content standards for social and emotional learning beyond the third-grade level in an effort help ensure students learn skills such as managing emotions and making responsible decisions. The committee also urged support for before- and after-school programs that target hours when children are considered more likely to get into trouble.