A nationwide movement seeking to combat the opioid crisis is educating students and adults alike — and saving lives.
We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Over the last two decades, more than 300,000 people have died of opioid overdoses in the United States.
Most efforts to combat the opioid epidemic focus on preventing access or dealing with addiction’s aftermath. But a partnership between the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital curriculum content, resources and professional development for K-12 classrooms, aimed at inspiring conversations with students about opioids has had an incredible impact.
“While young people are the most vulnerable to misusing substances, they are also the most susceptible to being influenced in their decision making,” said Sean Fearns, chief of community outreach at the DEA. “If students learn, at a young age, about the science behind addiction, appropriate practices of prescription medication, and the consequences of substance abuse, they may become less likely to experiment with them in the future. Based on this idea and the clear need for a nationwide initiative, the DEA and Discovery Education quickly began planning their response to the nation’s opioid epidemic.”
Any community in need
Launched in 2016, Operation Prevention is a nationwide movement designed to inspire lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom. It provides bilingual standards-aligned, science-based tools to schools at no-cost, including virtual field trips, parent resources, digital lesson plans and teen-led public service announcements (PSAs) that air on Discovery, Inc. networks. It’s estimated that the in-class materials have reached more than 4 million young people since launch.
“Parents, teachers and community leaders need tools to talk openly with young people about opioid misuse,” says Lori McFarling, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Discovery Education. “Many schools have identified a desire for more academic resources about opioid misuse that are designed to engage today’s students. Operation Prevention’s parent toolkit and self-paced approach to learning help fill this gap.”
Sabrina Spitaletta Johar, director of the Center for Public Health at the Milken Institute, a partner in Operation Prevention continues, “there are so many aspects of this crisis that need to be addressed, but in terms of education, Discovery Education is leveraging their existing business model to reach students in a way that engages parents and teachers.”
“Operation Prevention is open source,” added Spitaletta. “It’s free for people to access. It’s for everyone. Because the resources are for all of us.”
Expanding the conversation
The success of Operation Prevention has brought the program to elementary students as well as the middle and high school students it originally targeted. The program has garnered incredible support from national organizations. “Organizations of all sizes, from the Afterschool Alliance and Start Your Recovery to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, have signed the Operation Prevention pledge to combat America’s rapidly growing opioid and heroin epidemic,” McFarling notes proudly.
“Addressing a crisis of this scope and magnitude requires everyone who has a stake to be part of the solution,” says Carolyn Cawley, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF). “We believe businesses are a vehicle to help solve the problem. Discovery Education is an example of one such company applying their core competency to help employees and their families.” USCCF launched its opioid toolkit earlier this month, SharingSolutions.us which showcases Discovery Education and other organizations combating the crisis. The platform offers resources for employers and employees.
Operation Prevention resources are free, accessible and available at operationprevention.com. They are also available within Discovery Education Streaming Plus, a comprehensive digital service supplementing instruction across all K-12 curricular areas. Schools, organizations, communities and individuals interested in getting involved can visit operationprevention.com/take-the-pledge to sign the pledge.