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In more ways than one, Massachusetts, which has been at the heart of the opioid crisis in the United States, is now leading the charge to fight the epidemic. The state has suffered devastating loss of life due to heroin and opioid addiction. According to state-government data, “Opioid-related deaths in the state were more than four times higher in 2015 than in 2000.”
Project Here is a joint $2 million public-private initiative bringing prevention and educational resources to every public middle school in Massachusetts by fall of this year. The Herren Project, GE Foundation, Epicenter Experience, along with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy made the announcement earlier this year.
What Does The Herren Project Offer For Schools?
The program is offered to any public middle school in the state that wants it and provides an impressive array of activities and materials. These include some of the following:
- Resources for students struggling with addiction issues
- Substance abuse prevention training for teachers and parents
- In-classroom educational curriculum
- Digital content for mobile devices
“Prevention is the key to ending the opioid epidemic,” AG Healy announced, ” and our partnership…will help us tackle this public health crisis and protect our middle school students from addiction.”
Harm reduction techniques are practical strategies applied to minimize the negative consequences of drug abuse. These programs, such as needle exchanges to prevent the spread of disease, medically monitored injection sites to reduce overdoses and crime and law enforcement sites that will take illicit drugs with no questions asked, do less harm than the traditional war on drugs.
Chris Herren Gives Back
Chris Herren, founder of The Herren Project, which helps people navigate issues of addiction and the road to a fulfilling recovery, personally understands the pain and struggle that comes from a life of substance abuse. Herren was a former Boston Celtics player in the NBA and his struggles with addiction and recovery have been captured in his book, “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir.”
“The first step in addressing the substance use issues in our communities,” Herren said during the announcement, is to provide education and prevention strategies for children in the middle school years while they are developing a sense of self. All too often, we focus on the last day of addiction and not the first. We praise our children for their academic and athletic accomplishments, but fall short on personal wellness.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. government is close to turning back recent progress made in changing the country’s approach to drug abuse.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans a return to harsher, mandatory prison sentences for even low-level drug offenses, despite overwhelming evidence that criminalizing addiction only worsens a person’s and community’s and the country’s chances at recovery.
Project Here serves as a beacon for other states seeking alternative strategies to deal with the opioid epidemic.
AG Healy provided $500,000 worth of out of state settlement funds to take the $1.5 million initiative to $2 million, saying, “Through a multifaceted approach – reaching students in the classroom and on their mobile devices – we will empower them to make the right decisions and lead to change in their schools and communities.
More information about The Herren Project can be found on the website at HerrenProject.org.