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Press Release: Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford Announces Statewide, Student-Based Addiction Prevention Campaign

Public Education Campaign Is a Product of Heroin Task Force Interim Report

For Immediate Release                   

Contact: Erin Montgomery, Eric Shirk

Annapolis, MD (October 1, 2015)

Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, joined by Interim State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jack Smith, today launched a statewide, student-based public education prevention campaign to combat heroin and opioid addiction with students at Towson High School in Baltimore County. The campaign stems from a recommendation made by the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force in its interim report, released last month.

“Education campaigns, like the one we are announcing today, are a vital component of a comprehensive strategy to combat drug abuse and addiction,” said Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford. “Prescription drug abuse in particular is on the rise among young people because they think it’s safer than heroin or other drugs. We need to open up this dialogue as early as possible and start educating kids at a young age.” 

Lt. Governor Rutherford was joined by students in the Project Citizen program at Towson High, part of the school’s Law and Public Policy Magnet Program. Each year, students in the Project Citizen program pick a local issue to analyze and present possible solutions to a panel of lawmakers and public officials. Following the presentation, the lieutenant governor spoke with ninth- and 10th-grade students about risk, identification, treatment, and prevention.

The campaign is a joint effort between the Hogan administration and the Maryland State Department of Education. The coordinated, multi-tiered public education initiative is focused on prevention by discouraging teens and preteens from trying opioids or heroin even once. It is intended to educate students and parents on how to identify and respond to signs of addiction and how to access support services. 

“Schools have an important role to play in educating children about the danger of these drugs,” said Dr. Smith. “The best way to reduce drug abuse is to stop it before it begins.”

Dr. Smith added that MSDE plans to partner with local systems and community organizations to increase awareness of the heroin crisis and available resources. MSDE will also incorporate heroin/opioid prevention in the state health curriculum earlier and in a broader way, infuse heroin/opioid prevention into additional disciplines and content areas, and integrate heroin/opioid addiction as a topic that could be addressed in service learning projects.

The campaign is an outgrowth of Governor Larry Hogan’s statewide focus on heroin and opioid abuse, and was included in the list of ten recommendations from the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force’s Interim Report, released in August.