How US Public Schools Are Taking Action Against The Opioid Crisis

By Beth Leipholtz 06/11/18

From drug searches to peer-support groups, schools across the nation are taking a number of approaches to combat the opioid epidemic.

A teacher teaching students in a classroom

Some high schools aren’t wasting time and are confronting the opioid crisis head-on. 

According to CBS 6 News, Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, New York is one such school. At the high school, drug searches with police K-9s take place about twice per month, says Saratoga County Deputy Sheriff Ken Cooper, who serves as the school resource and emergency liaison officer.

“Kids start out with marijuana use, they don’t think that the next thing is heroin or another drug, but it is,” Cooper told CBS

During the searches, trained K-9s locate any illegal items in a student’s locker. If the dog finds something, it scratches at a locker or barks. According to Cooper, students have reacted mostly positively to the searches. 

“I think overall students, parents are OK with us coming in and searching. They don’t want drugs on campus,” he tells CBS

Another step being taken at the high school is stationing school resource officers throughout, with the hope that students will feel comfortable talking to them if they have friends who may be using drugs. 

“We want them to give us the good information, so we can actually help,” Cooper told CBS

Additionally, CBS reports, the school has trained teachers, school nurses and other staff members about the signs of substance use disorders. The school also advertises a help hotline and students are even learning about opioids in their health classes. 

Shenendehowa High School isn’t alone in taking an early approach to the crisis. 

In Lakewood, Ohio, a peer-to-peer approach is being taken. High school students have partnered with a nonprofit called Recovery Resources of Cleveland and have created the Casey's Kids program, according to In the program, high schoolers chosen by health teachers and counselors work to educate middle school students about substance use disorders. 

"There's a lot of research that says kids sort of have better outcomes in this program when it's delivered by other kids. They're more apt to listen and trust information that's delivered by other kids," said Lakewood City Schools' Teaching and Learning Director Christine Palumbo. 

Some states are even passing laws requiring schools to educate students about the opioid crisis, according to Education World.  

In 2014, New York passed a law requiring schools to update their health curriculums to teach students about the opioid crisis.

Recently, Maryland followed suit and passed the Start Talking Maryland Act, which mandates that public schools educate students about the dangers of opioid use, beginning in the third grade. The bill also mandates that nursing staff be trained to administer the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone. 

“It's a crisis that we need to identify and make educators as well as parents aware of it, and provide the resources to deal with it," Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D), the bill’s lead sponsor, told The Baltimore Sun.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.