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District Attorney's Office brings LifeSkills to Prevent Drug Use

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Berkshire district attorney's office is now training educators on a specific curriculum to prevent drug use.

The office's grant-funded Community Outreach and Education Program is now teaching "Botvin LifeSkills Training," a three-pronged approach to help students make better decisions when presented with drug use. The curriculum is eyed to be rolled out into all schools and help prevent students from going down the path of drug use.

"The LifeSkills Training Program in itself has three components, teaching general social skills, personal skills, as well as drug abuse resistance. It hits decision making and it starts off in most levels — high schools are a little bit different — the elementary and middle school levels start off with self-esteem," said Kim Blair of the district attorney's office.

The office piloted the program in Lee Elementary last year and it is being replicated in other schools. The next step for the district attorney's office staff to training the educators who are in the school every day to re-enforce the program. 

"One of the things we will be doing is training educators. We've forecasted a number of trainings to train educators throughout Berkshire County in all levels of the life skills program," Blair said.

The curriculum has multiple levels for different age groups. Real-life scenarios are presented to students to determine what they would do — practice of the skills they've learned for when it happens in real life. Blair said the scenarios replicate what a student could encounter, particularly when it comes to drug or alcohol use. 

"Refusals go from no I don't want to do it to do I have to tell a little white lie? Do I have to pretend my parents are coming to pick me up? Do I just ignore them?" Blair said. "We talk them through a lot of different ways to refuse and to deal with situations in their lives."

Concurrently, the district attorney's office has a peer-mentoring program. The Youth Advisory Board is an annual program that brings students from across the county to put on the Strive Leadership Conference. That conference has workshops and speakers that span issues many students are worried about — not just drug or alcohol use but other youth issues.

The efforts in the schools are all part of curbing drug behavior. Those two organizations presented their work to the Central County Rx / Heroin Work Group. The young students typically aren't wrapped into the opioid crisis with very few actually reporting having addictions. But, by curbing the use of alcohol and drugs at the school level is what the program operators say will help prevent the student from delving into the harder drugs in the future.

Meanwhile, the Berkshire United Way has its own efforts to prevent drug abuse. Those include parenting workshops, awareness programs, and a social norms marketing campaign promoting positive decisions. 

Between the various organizations and the schools themselves, there is much effort being placed on prevention. And the numbers are trending in the right direction, but there is still more work to be done.

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