Unintentional drug overdoses claim the lives of nearly four Ohioans every day. We’ve responded to the crisis by creating a dedicated heroin unit, establishing an outreach team, convening community-wide summits, and working with local leaders and law enforcement.
We’ve also promoted innovative, “outside-the-box” approaches to slowing the spread of the drug crisis. One example is the Drug Use Prevention Grants my office distributes to educate students about drug use and provide them with the tools to make smart decisions.
To ensure they delivered the best possible results, we took an in-depth look at our process for awarding the Drug Use Prevention Grants. I brought together a working group of law enforcement officials and school and drug prevention experts in August of 2013 to evaluate the grant process and examine program results. In December of 2013, that working group presented recommendations for parents, schools, and community and law enforcement agencies to consider as they crafted their efforts to reduce substance abuse among young people. The working group also created a Program Guide for effective school-based prevention education and a related booklet for drug abuse resistance education grant applicants.
The program guide and the educational booklet the working group produced were welcome refinements to the grant application and funding process. The suggestions and the resources the working group generated help make the programs funded by the grants an effective line of defense that discourage kids from yielding to curiosity or peer pressure and experimenting with drugs.
My office has dedicated significant resources to law enforcement for drug abuse prevention education. For example, during the 2013-2014 program year we trained more than 100 new school resource officers at the London and Richfield campuses of our Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA). And during the 2014-2015 program year we provided about $3 million in funding to 157 local law enforcement agencies. The funds supported school-based programs and helped 265 Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) and school resource officers work with almost 362,000 students.
In March we announced that we’re now accepting Drug Use Prevention grant applications from law enforcement agencies within Ohio for the 2016-2017 program year. Programs eligible for funding include D.A.R.E., Keepin’ It REAL, I’m Special, Prevention through Alternative Learning Styles (PALS), Too Good for Drugs, Botvin Life Skills, Reach Out Now, and Stay on Track. Other programs may be considered for funding if documentation of their effectiveness is included with the application.
Our approach to Ohio’s drug abuse crisis is holistic: While we’ve focused our enforcement efforts, we recognize that we can’t arrest our way out of the problem. That’s why we’ve included community outreach and education in our overall strategy. We will continue to support drug use prevention grants and consider other creative ways to empower kids to choose wisely and avoid becoming a casualty.
For more information about our drug use prevention grants, visit our website at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/DrugUsePrevention.
Mike Dewine is the Ohio’s Attorney General. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.