COMPACT 2020 to Work on New Anti-drug Prevention Programs
In response to the national opioid epidemic, COMPACT 2020 was created in the summer of 2016 to combat substance abuse, which was leading to a large number of overdose deaths in Shelby County.
Alan Miller, director of COMPACT 2020, said that the first efforts of the program were working to find adolescents who were engaging in substance abuse and reaching out to their parents so that the substance abuse could be treated while the user was still at a young age.
“As wonderful as all of that is, it’s still just intervention,” Miller said.
While intervention is important in COMPACT 2020’s mission, the next step in their anti-drug program is working on prevention. An idea that COMPACT 2020 has had since it was established is implementing an anti-drug curriculum in Pelham, Alabaster, Hoover, and Shelby County schools.
“[COMPACT 2020 looked] at evidence-based curriculums across the country,” Miller said. “The one that was mentioned time and time again was the Botvin LifeSkills curriculum.”
Miller said that he was met with an overwhelmingly positive response when he reached out to each school systems involved in COMPACT 2020. Teachers spent the fall semester training for the program, and the schools will begin implementing the LifeSkills curriculum in 6th grade classrooms during the spring semester of 2018.
“I cannot say enough positive things about the superintendents and the school systems,” Miller said. “That’s not an easy thing for them to do, to shift their curriculum like that over the course of one summer.”
While there have been several anti-drug programs that have been circulating schools across the nation for decades, Miller said he believes that LifeSkills is different because it focuses on the real impacts of substance abuse.
“Instead of talking to the kids about it being a moral decision, it teaches them the health issues associated with substance abuse,” Miller said.
The program also includes coping skills, exit strategies and how to recognize and deal with anxiety. All of these issues revolve around substance abuse, and Miller said that by being able to have these candid conversations with students, it can help them prepare for these situations that the may face in the future.
“A lot of things like that are included in the curriculum that have not been included in anti-drug programs previously,” Miller said. “I think that’s part of what makes the program so effective.”
Beyond the education being provided through LifeSkills, COMPACT 2020 is also using new community prevention teams to help raise awareness.
“We’re reaching out to each one of our communities within the county to start up location prevention teams, made up of people from all walks of life,” Miller said. “We [want to] have as much awareness and information shared as possible.”
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