KENT -- Parents, teachers and school administrators across Portage County are invited to an assembly on the opioid epidemic at Stanton Middle School at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The presentations will be done by Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) Task Force, a non-profit organization formed in Florida in 2004 following a day filled with assemblies at the middle and high schools. The Akron area NOPE chapter was formed by Dr. Jeffrey Hartmann, principal at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, last year after a presentation of the Pennsylvania NOPE chapter at Stow-Monroe Falls schools last October. Sally Dean, a school-based therapist for SMFHS said the school brought the Pennsylvania chapter in because "there was nothing like this in Ohio."
"The NOPE assembly is a very powerful presentation that reaches kids on an emotional level," Dean said.
She said at least two of the speakers have survived the loss of a loved one to an opioid overdose. She added the presentation is designed to evoke an emotional response from students and is graphic in content especially for the high school students.
"It's not just the family members telling their story though because they go through a training and they weave in some very consistent, important messages throughout their story so every assembly is consistent," Dean said. "We also often have a police officer speaking; there is a tape of a 911 call. The story is told from several different perspectives."
The parent assembly is a shortened version of what students will experience during their assemblies, and is geared to parents to encourage them to lock up medications, what signs to look for and awareness.
Superintendent George Joseph said he likes the idea of starting something in Ohio that has been successful in other states.
"We are creating from what others have really benefitted from," Joseph said. "I think the emotional piece of NOPE will help us capture the students. We aren't going to capture all the students but even if we capture a handful we are in the right direction."
Aaron Hido, the dean of students at Stanton Middle School, said there will be two assemblies during the school day at Stanton, one for seventh grade and one for eighth graders, as well as a school-wide assembly at Kent Roosevelt High School. He said the program is a way to educate and prevent drug abuse in the district.
"We hear a lot about the opioid crisis in Ohio and we want to do what we can to make our students aware of the dangers of addiction and also be aware of the steps leading to that point," Hido said. "Even though none of our students are using heroin we want to keep it that way."
Hido added while sixth-grade students will not participate in the assembly, there will be more "age-appropriate" education on drug and alcohol awareness for the younger students.
According to a letter drafted by the NOPE Task Force to be sent home to parents, "following virtually every presentation, a number of students seek help, either for themselves or someone they know."
Dean said she feels like NOPE is a good compliment to programs like Hidden in Plan Sight, Chasing the Dragon or other educational prevention programs.
For more information on NOPE visit its national website at www.nopetaskforce.org or the Akron area's chapter Facebook page Akron NOPE Task Force.