La Porte County educators are going on the offensive against the rising tide of opioid addiction in young people, with help from the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte’s (HFL) new Partners in Prevention initiative.
The goal of the Partners in Prevention initiative is to provide training, funding, and technical assistance to 11 La Porte Country schools for the implementation of evidence-based prevention curriculum.
“This has to be our biggest initiative that we've launched to date because it affects so many people," said Jeffrey Bernel, Board Chair of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte. “It is a great program, built on a model with a proven track record, and we're excited to see it work here in La Porte County over the next three years."
Friday morning, representatives from each school gathered together with HFL staff and board members, and the Partners in Prevention technical assistance and training team, to celebrate the new program’s launch.
Keynote speaker Jim McClelland, appointed by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to serve as Executive Director for Drug Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement for the State of Indiana, addressed those assembled for breakfast.
“I consider you pioneers,” McClelland told his audience. “You’re really leading the way in this area of prevention, and I commend you for that.”
Opioid addiction has become one of the fastest growing health threats in the United States. In 2017, Indiana was among the top ten states with the highest number of opioid prescriptions in the county.
"Ultimately the solution to a lot of these problems is to prevent them from starting in the first place," McClelland said. "I think the Partners in Prevention initiative is wonderful. It's a great example of what communities can do to use programs that have solid evidence of significant impact in reducing substance abuse among young people."
The initiative was organized in response to recommendations identified in the La Porte County Opioid Study, commissioned by the HFL and conducted with help from the Center for Health Policy at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.
Thanks to HFL’s support, an anticipated 17,500 children and teenagers, accounting for almost 97 percent of the county’s total student population, will engage in a three-year program emphasizing positive relationship-building and social competency development.
“Our hope is that after three years, prevention becomes a sustainable part of school culture,” said Maria Fruth, President and CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.
Initiative curriculum was built on the “Prevention Matters” model developed by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. The evidence-based program emphasizes learning in key areas like decision-making, problem solving, and emotional self-regulation.
Resulting outcomes demonstrated not just a reduction in instances of substance abuse among students— they have also been shown to combat instances of bullying and violence, improve academic achievement, and encourage regular attendance habits.
Mark Francesconi, Superintendent of La Porte Community Schools, sees the initiative as a powerful tool for increasing the safety and wellbeing of the children and teenagers in his care.
"It's great to have the resources of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte to be able to implement a program like Partners in Prevention,” Francesconi said. “We're really blessed as a community to have something like this.”
For more information about Partners in Prevention, the model it is based on, and other resources regarding prevention-focused education efforts, please visit hflaporte.org/partnersinprevention/.