Home > Uncategorized > Opiod Epidemic Makes Life Even MORE Complicated… and MORE Costly for Schools

Opiod Epidemic Makes Life Even MORE Complicated… and MORE Costly for Schools

June 24, 2018

Earlier this week, Politico published a post that described how the opiod crisis is impacting public education, and it isn’t a pretty picture:

SCHOOLS BLINDSIDED BY OPIOID EPIDEMIC: America’s biggest public health crisis since AIDS has seeped into cash-strapped schools. Educators are on the silent front lines of the epidemic at a time when many already feel overtaxed as a result of budget cuts and chronic shortages of school counselors, psychologists and social workers.

Here’s what our reporting found: Teachers console children whose parents have died, gone to jail or disappeared as foster care rates increase, often resulting from drug abuse. Sleep-deprived youngsters come to school hungry and dirty, describing drug busts in their homes. Sometimes, the abusers are the students themselves. Overloaded school counselors struggle to assist hundreds of kids and parents.

Adding to the stress,fights over scarce school funding and teacher pay mark many of the same states engulfed by opioid addiction.Overdose deaths from opioids and other drugs have risen significantly in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma — all states where teachers walked off the job this year. In Arizona, another state of teacher labor unrest where school funding dropped more than a third since the Great Recession, heroin overdose deaths are increasing.

“There’s a lot of talk about the opioid abuse and drug abuse in the state, but then we’re not funding the basic programs that would really help with our side, kids at school,” said Patrick Ballard, a school psychologist in Lexington, Ky.

Schools must educate children preoccupied by other things. “If you don’t feel safe and you can’t get a warm shelter and meal, how are you going to focus on a math test?” said Jan Rader, the fire chief of Huntington, W.Va., who regularly responds to 911 drug overdose calls to find children on the scene. “We spend a lot of time talking about getting people into treatment and into detox and all of that. But our kids, it’s our next generation, and they are suffering.”

Janine Menard, a high school counselor who serves as board chairwoman of the Arizona School Counselors Association, said prevention programming has become an afterthought in her home state as Arizona’s ratio of counselors to students has slipped to 1-to-924. She oversees about 1,600 students at two schools, where she’s seen engaged parents seemingly slip into what she said she assumes are the trenches of drug abuse.

“It’s like a Band-Aid. You just take care of the student with behavior problems and what’s happening at the moment,” said Menard, who watched in frustration in May at the state Capitol in Arizona as legislators voted down an amendment that would have sought to lower the ratio to 1 to 250.

— Speaking of drug prevention education, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in an interview that he believes it should be mandatory for students of all ages, starting in kindergarten. He said he’s frequently approached by teachers and other school employees who describe opioid-related problems.

— “Thank God for the school system, the teachers, the teacher’s aides, service personnel. We’ve almost basically asked them to step in where parents, and communities and the social structure of an area hasn’t been able to do their job, and do it for them,” Manchin said. Read more from your host here.

It is heartening to see a Senator praising the public schools… but it would be even better to hear any political acknowledge the ultimate action needed to solve this problem: more money for public education and public health services. 

Teasing out the ides offered in this post underscores that reality. If voters want public schools and public health agencies to cope with the existing problems and prevent future problems they will need to hire more personnel for BOTH, and that will come at a cost to taxpayers… and from where I sit every dollar we spend on prevention and treatment is a dollar that we do not have to spend on prisons. But, alas, prisons are profitable and public school and public health personnel are a “drain on our tax dollars”.

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