COLUMBUS -- A new state panel will take the next three months or so to determine ways to incorporate information about drug addiction and abuse into primary and secondary school classrooms.
The main goal of the newly formed Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education is to make recommendations for implementing age-appropriate studies on drugs into science, health and other coursework.
"We are asking this committee to come up with a comprehensive plan to assure that each child in Ohio, from the time she enters kindergarten until graduation from high school, they are receiving evidence-based education in regard to drug prevention," said Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine. "/ What we want this group to do is to assess where we are / in regard to prevention. And what we're saying today is / we're not going to arrest our way out of this problem. It is the worst drug epidemic in my lifetime. It is pervasive, it is everywhere."
DeWine announced the new group during a morning press conference at the Statehouse, where he was joined by Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina), House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) and members of the committee, which will hold hearings across the state in coming weeks.
DeWine said he would like the group to complete its work in about 90 days, though more time will be allotted, if necessary.
The recommendations will be taken up by lawmakers, who will have to move legislation to codify the ideas. That includes allocating funding to pay for curriculum or other expenses.
"When we know things work, we are going to be willing to put resources behind it," said Sen. Larry Obhof (R-Medina), who is among the lawmakers mentioned to lead the Senate in the next general assembly. "When you look at the totality of the drug problem and particularly with opioids -- we've got people overdosing at an alarming rate compared to where we were just five years ago -- we need to put resources into whatever we find works."
Committee members include several with ties to the Mahoning Valley -- Krish Mohip, chief executive officer of Youngstown City Schools, and Bob Hammond, president of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, are participating.
"Hopefully, we can look at a way to see how we can incorporate some of this neuroscience, some of the ways that addiction occurs, into some of the science classrooms," said Chris Monsour, a longtime high school teacher in Tiffin who is from Brookfield near Youngstown. "It's showing students why it's so difficult to get over addiction, what do these drugs actually do to your synapse. We do a lot of drug prevention in elementary and middle school but maybe there's something we need to be doing in later grades, in science classrooms/ and continuing what they learned in health later on in their other classes."