Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E.) is tackling the nationwide opioid crisis by including it in its curriculum for the first time. The well-known anti-drug program delivered in schools now offers a new section on opioid and prescription drug abuse.
Drug education programs in schools used to involve just illegal drugs, but with today’s opioid crisis, that list must now include legally prescribed but highly addictive medications. In October of last year, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E.) took a new direction and began tackling the crisis by including it in its curriculum for the first time. Launched in 1983, police officers originally taught students about the dangers of street drugs. With the drug crisis now evolving to include prescription medications, and amid criticism that D.A.R.E. isn’t an effective deterrent, the program now offers a new section on opioid and prescription drug abuse.
Sean Reyes, Utah Attorney General said, “This curriculium that D.A.R.E is rolling out couldn’t be better timed. It’s crisis level, clear and present danger as I like to call it.”
The ‘just say no’ model has been replaced with one focused on making good decisions and getting elementary-aged kids in more involved.
“A community component also enables officers to train parents and community members,” said Kim Hawkes, D.A.R.E. America Central Region Director.
Last year, over 70,000 Utah students participated in the D.A.R.E. program taught by 100 law enforcement officers from 57 different agencies.
“I think it’s vital,” said Darin Adams, Cedar City Police Chief.
“Deputy Frandsen taught me the D.A.R.E. decision-making model. It teaches us to first define your challenge, problem or opportunity,” said Sydney Hales, a Wasatch High School student. The high school is in Heber City, Utah.
Adams says his department has three D.A.R.E. officers in all five of the district’s elementary schools.
“Sometimes prevention methods are immeasurable. B ut we know as D.A.R.E officers we’ve had an even the feedback years later the impact we’ve made on the lives of these kids,” he said.
In 2015, Wake County Public Schools in North Carolina replaced D.A.R.E. with another program. Now, in 2019, D.A.R.E. instructors have been invited into eight Wake Forest schools to address the opioid epidemic. Officer Scott Graham, a D.A.R.E. instructor and member of the Wake Forest Police Department, said his message is aimed for students in different grade levels.
“It’s an epidemic,” said Graham. “It’s a huge problem. D.A.R.E. has a lesson plan that basically we follow to make sure we’re sensitive and age-appropriate.”
At Richland Creek Elementary School, Graham visits Ms. Wishmore’s fifth-grade class regularly. “I have a relationship through the D.A.R.E. program with these kids, and it’s really special,” he said. “I think it works.”
He wants the students to which he administers the program to be equipped with basic life skills to make good decisions. This is a vastly different approach than the D.A.R.E. program of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It is a more appropriate model, Graham believes, to use in the wake of the prescription drug crisis. These drugs are administered legally by physicians and many of them are likely to be found in students’ homes. So, they need to be aware of what they are and how to use and not use them.
“Drugs can help us in so many ways, but they can be dangerous too,” said Graham.