Governor Cuomo Announces New Initiatives To Combat Substance Abuse Among School-Aged Children And Student Athletes

Educational Resources Made Available to Coaches, Teachers and School Administrators.

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Photo by: Vnukko

Albany, NY - April 5, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new initiative to provide teachers and coaches with resources they can use to help prevent and address substance use disorder among young people. Starting next week, the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Education Department, and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services will notify schools statewide of the availability of flash drives loaded with materials in English and Spanish for coaches, teachers, school nurses, and other educators to use in personal conversations with students and in community forums.
"We unfortunately know all too well in New York the devastating impact substance abuse and opioid addiction can have, and any action we can take to educate children on these dangers and save lives is an action worth taking," Governor Cuomo said. "As trusted community members who interact with students on a regular basis, teachers and coaches are invaluable resources in the fight against substance abuse. This initiative will provide school personnel with the materials they need to better communicate with students who may be at risk and help us to end the scourge of addiction across the state."
"I have seen the heartbreak in the eyes of parents who have lost children to addiction," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Co-Chair of the Heroin and Opioid Task Force. "As the opioid epidemic continues to impact communities across New York, we're committed to putting forward solutions to save lives. Students look up to their teachers and coaches as role models. Giving these mentors the tools they need will allow them to have meaningful conversations with students about the dangers of heroin and opioids. This latest initiative will work to prevent addiction and help students who need to break the cycle of drug abuse."
The initiative aligns with the start of spring sports season, when school athletic directors, coaches, and trainers have the opportunity to discuss the dangers of prescription opioids with student athletes and their parents or guardians. Though there are many pathways to addiction, it is not uncommon for young people to get their first exposure to opioids through prescriptions they receive as the result of sports-related injuries. Some athletes report misusing the medication to mask the pain of the injury and allow them to resume playing before the injury is fully healed. These experiences often lead to addiction, heroin use, and even death from overdose.
More than 500,000 people in the United States have died from drug overdoses since 2000 — nearly 91 people a day. An average of one call every 45 minutes was reported to Poison Control Centers for pediatric opioid exposures from 2000-2015.
The New York State Addiction and Substance Use Disorder Resource flash drives include more than 80 different sources of valuable information for coaches, administrators and other educators. A key component of the Resource is the Kitchen Table Toolkit, which includes documents on how to speak with young people about substance use, as well as materials people can use to deliver public presentations at community forums.
The Addiction and Substance Use Disorder Resource flash drives also include:
  • Posters, presentations, videos, and discussion guides about the opioid and heroin epidemic.
  • Facts on prescription drugs, their potential for misuse, and how to dispose of unused medications.
  • Information on where to find Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery services.
  • Details on NYS laws that allow schools to provide and maintain naloxone on-site, to save the life of someone overdosing on opioids.
  • Information on how school personnel can implement an opioid overdose prevention program.
  • The Health Education Standards Modernization Supplemental Guidance Document to help school districts meet the requirements of modernizing health education instruction by including heroin and opioid content in the curriculum.
Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Athletes' love of the game can make it particularly difficult to stop playing when they suffer an injury. Coaches and other educators play a unique role in young people's lives and must teach them about the dangers of misusing pain medication, either to get a 'high' or to get back on the field before an injury is fully healed. Both can have lasting consequences."
Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said, "The opioid epidemic is at unprecedented levels in New York and across the country. By raising awareness in our schools about prevention programs and the services and support available to those in need, we can help save lives. That's why the State Education Department and Board of Regents have worked closely with the NYS Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, the NYS Department of Health and other state agencies to raise awareness of this public health crisis. I thank Commissioners Zucker and Gonzalez-Sanchez for their support and look forward to continuing our partnership to help fight addiction."
OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "Teachers and coaches are entrusted with the well-being of students every day, and they can have a tremendous influence in a young person's life. Preventing addiction to alcohol and drugs is a priority. This initiative packages a variety of resources and tools that will help to address the risks and dangers of prescription opioids with young people. By increasing the availability of these materials, we will be able to reach more youth and enhance their knowledge of the dangers of misusing opioids before they develop serious consequences resulting in a variety of health issues."