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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2018:12:07 11:01:53

Students show off their certificates, having completed the program.

The issue of prescription drug abuse by teens is making headlines in our area and around the country.

In an effort to help address adolescent drug abuse and misuse, the Rite Aid Foundation brought its Prescription Drug Safety program, a digital course about prescription drug abuse prevention, to Scranton-area high schools.

The program was unveiled at Carbondale Area Junior-Senior High School.

The program, developed by EVERFI, will be made available to high schools in the Scranton area at no cost. Representatives of the Rite Aid Foundation, Sen. Bob Casey’s office, Sen. Pat Toomey’s office, Rep. Matt Cartwright’s office and local community officials from the City of Carbondale were on hand for the announcement.

“Prescription drug abuse is a serious and growing problem across the United States. Every day 116 people die from opioid-related drug overdoses” said Tracy Henderson, director of the Rite Aid Foundation. “Our nation is in the midst of an unprecedented epidemic that threatens the health, safety and wellbeing of our young people. The Rite Aid Foundation is proud to introduce this important prevention education to Scranton-area students. We hope it arms them with the skills and knowledge to make smart decisions and prevent abuse before it occurs.”

The Prescription Drug Safety program uses an evidence-based, public health approach to empower high school students with the skills and knowledge they need to make safe and healthy decisions about prescription drugs. Through interactive scenarios and self-guided activities, students learn the facts about drugs, how to properly use and dispose of them, and how to step in when faced with a situation involving misuse.

The course is aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national health education standards and state academic standards. There is also a website with additional resources including parent guides and information on local safe medication disposal.

Pennsylvania is one of the states hardest hit by prescription drug abuse and the opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania is among the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-related deaths. In addition, the number of drug overdose deaths is increasing more rapidly in Pennsylvania than any other state in the nation.

“Prescription drug abuse and the opioid epidemic are serious public health and public safety challenges,” said Brian Bognatz, Carbondale police chief. “Collaboration is vital to reversing this disturbing trend. Law enforcement, state lawmakers, medical professionals, educators and community members need to join forces and partner on solutions that help prevent abuse before it occurs.”

The Carbondale Area School District implemented the six-lesson online Prescription Drug Safety program as part of the health education program, the first Scranton-area school to integrate the program into its curriculum.

“We pride ourselves in preparing our students for the world they will enter into after graduation. Prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction are important issues that impact every member of our community,” said Robert Mehalick, superintendent, Carbondale Area School District. “We are grateful to the Rite Aid Foundation for helping us provide this meaningful program. We know it will empower our students to make healthy decisions and help our community overcome this growing epidemic.”

Since its inception in 2001, the Rite Aid Foundation has awarded more than $36 million to nonprofit organizations.