The Upshur County Schools Board of Education truly has support from all quarters of our mountain community. This is my lesson learned this week serving the educational needs of our children and grandchildren. On July 23rd, David H. Coffman, Upshur County Sheriff, joined our public meeting at the BOE office. He stated he came with the blessing of the Upshur County Commissioners, Terry B. Cutright, Samuel R. Nolte, and Kristie G. Tenney.
Sheriff Coffman asked us to unite together to win the fight of overcoming the Opioid Epidemic in our community by reestablishing the D.A.R.E. program. This would allow his Deputy Sheriffs, after further training, to participate in our classrooms as co-teachers.
Knowing his excellent reputation, the Sheriff brought along Lieutenant Mark Davis, who taught the program for eight years to our 5th graders in Upshur County. Indeed, the Lieutenant extolled the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program as the most memorable part of his 33 years in law enforcement. He reluctantly stepped aside only due to other demands on his professional time.
Now the times are changing. Our community is being consumed by addiction-related woes. Definitely with the central Appalachians encompassing all of Upshur County, West Virginia, as ground zero for the Opioid Epidemic, we could all agree this is a time for more boots on the ground. While the original D.A.R.E. Program sought to prevent use of controlled drugs, membership in gangs, and violent behavior, it had to be revamped to effectively deal with the deadly epidemic we have now in our midst.
In 2007, a new curriculum for prescription drug abuse and over-the-counter drug abuse was created by D.A.R.E. America. Other contributors included: law enforcement officials; the Consumer Healthcare and Products Association (CHPA); and a number of other organizations, including USA Federal Agencies along with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. In 2009, D.A.R.E. adopted their implementation of Penn State University’s “keepin’ it REAL” middle school curriculum, an evidence-based curriculum listed on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).
“Keepin’ it REAL” would now be taught not only to 5th graders at our seven grade schools, but also at B-U Middle School and B-U High School. This time three Deputies would be teaching for at least 10 weeks every year until we achieve victory over this Opioid Epidemic.
This is a significant offering by our Upshur County Commission and our Upshur County Sheriff Department. I can declare that as a practicing physician going on 50 years of Doctoring, I have rarely been prouder to live in our community where Neighbor helps Neighbor.
Appreciating the gravity of the drug addiction problem consuming our community, the BOE accepted the extended hands willing to help. Details can be worked out. We may still be in early innings of this epidemic. Addressing our West Virginia School Board Association last year, Dr. Rahul Gupta, Commissioner of Public Health for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said we will lose two generations of students before we conquer the Opioid Epidemic. At least we are all in this together in Upshur County.