JOLIET – Joliet Central High School Principal John Randich today announced the school’s participation in the pilot for a groundbreaking heroin prevention initiative as part of the school’s health education curriculum during a press conference today.
This initiative, developed by the Robert Crown Center for Health Education (RCC), is innovative and unique because it is designed to educate the whole school community, parents, and students. The project builds upon existing school health curricula and resources, addressing the content gaps, recommending cross-curricular instruction opportunities and delivering consistent, authentic, accurate and research-based lessons that inform and resonate with learners.
The initiative includes a social media case appropriate for both middle school and high school youth containing the story of a teen that starts using prescription pain pills and progresses to using heroin. A unique aspect of this software is that the story is told using text messages, comic book scenes, “Friendbook” pages, bank statements, report cards, and blogs. This allows the students to piece together the story themselves in order to see the effects of addiction and heroin use on a character they come to know and understand over the course of a school year.
The development of this initiative is the third phase in an effort led by Will County Executive Larry Walsh entitled Will County HELPS (Heroin Education Leads to Preventative Solutions), which he formed in 2011 to fight the growing problem of heroin use in the county.
“We are pleased to bring this important information to the students in our district,” said Randich. “As educators, we feel obligated to ensure our students are well educated about potential dangers such as heroin. We want to empower them to make wise decisions regarding their health and their futures.”
Walsh said Will County HELPS is fortunate to partner with the Robert Crown Center for Health Education to bring this educational initiative to the Will County schools. Will County HELPS has produced public service announcements, which air on local cable stations, and has hosted multiple forums across the county to raise awareness to the issue of heroin. This initiative is the third component of the effort.
“The Robert Crown Center for Health Education is a leader in health education with over 50 years of experience in creating health curriculums specifically for students,” Walsh said. “It is our hope this partnership will further our efforts to eventually drive heroin out of our county. We must work together to protect our children, our families, and our communities.”
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who partnered with Walsh in the HELPS initiative, said educating students is a critical component in the battle against heroin.
“My office joined forces with local police narcotics units years ago to aggressively prosecute heroin dealers as the use of this deadly drug was spiking,” Glasgow said. “But if we’re going to completely eliminate the market for heroin in Will County, we also must be present in our schools with partners like the Robert Crown Center who can teach our young people about the dangers of a drug that will addict you and can kill you at any time.”
The heroin prevention initiative is based on original research commissioned by RCC in partnership with the Reed Hruby Foundation, and conducted by the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy commissioned by RCC focusing on suburban heroin users. The research revealed common pathways to the drug and informed the design of the educational initiative.