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A bill prefiled for consideration by state legislators next year would require students in elementary and secondary schools receive education about the state's opioid crisis.

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. James Tipton, a Taylorsville Republican, requires students in elementary, middle and high school to be taught about "drug abuse prevention, with an emphasis on the prescription drug epidemic and the connection between prescription opioid abuse and addiction to other drugs, such as heroin and synthetic drugs."

The bill calls for "appropriate" instruction to take place in physical education and health classes. The requirements for the instruction would be written by the state Department of Education, based on recommendations put together by Office of Drug Control Policy.

Local officials with Owensboro Public Schools and Daviess County schools said there is already drug education taking place.

George Powell, director of student services for OPS, said students in the elementary and middle schools receive drug education through the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, which comes from the Owensboro Police Department. The police department has two D.A.R.E. officers.

"They hit it hard at certain grade levels," Powell said. "They have it throughout elementary and middle school."

At the elementary level, OPS students receive a semester-long D.A.R.E. program in fifth grade, and followup D.A.R.E. education in the seventh grade, Powell said. There is not a D.A.R.E. program at the high school level, but student discuss drug prevention at Owensboro High School with the school's substance abuse prevention coordinator and with the school resource officer, he said.

"As far as high school, they discuss (drug prevention) in home rooms," particularly during "Red Ribbon Week," he said. The "Red Ribbon" campaign is a national student drug prevention program.

The topic is also discussed in high school health class. All students are required to take health class in order to graduate, Powell said.

"There is obviously some discussion of drugs and what they can do to your body" in health classes, Powell said. "So some of that is already in place.

"I think we do a pretty good job of dedicating time to the dangers of drugs and substance abuse," Powell said. "I don't know if they passed a law that it would change things we already have in place."

Damon Fleming, director of student services for Daviess County Public Schools, said, "The first question would be, what are they going to consider 'appropriate?'" DCPS students are not involved in the D.A.R.E. program, which is voluntary, but do get drug education as freshmen in high school.

"Every freshman is required to have health and P.E. classes," Fleming said. "... (In) the health classes, I know, we have people come in and talk to the kids about prescription drug abuse and opioid abuse." Speakers come from agencies such as the health department, he said.

"We also have some classes in the middle schools where students are receiving some information" about substance abuse, he said.

Starting next school year, all DCPS schools will receive material about substance abuse prevention through "Project Daris," which provides free material and speakers to state schools about substance abuse. The program was named after Daris Fent, a 23-year-old from Nancy, who died of a heroin overdose in 2015. Fent first became addicted to a prescription for OxyContin, an opioid painkiller, that he received after an injury.

"We are going to start implementing that through our school nurses, and we have nurses in every school," Fleming said.

The bill "wouldn't change what we're doing very much," Fleming said.

(1) comment


To clarify, D.A.R.E. does have a high school program that was introduced just this year. It is an evidence-based curriculum that has been customized to align with the D.A.R.E. elementary and middle school programs.

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