New Jersey Schools Turn To Anti-Drug Programs In Response To Opioid Crisis

LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Budget problems years ago prompted many school districts across the country to cut anti-drug programs like DARE but many towns in New Jersey now have a renewed interest in restarting them.

June Mitchell has two kids in the Lacey Township school district in ocean County, where the opioid crisis has exploded.

“It’s very scary,” she said.

Heroin is now a topic of conversation at home.

“He’s brought it to my attention. Several people, I told him, he has to make good decisions,” she told CBS2’s Meg Baker.

There were 207 overdose deaths in Ocean County in 2016.

“Here in hometown, Lacey Township, five overdose deaths and numerous narcan deployments,” Lacey Police Chief, Michael DiBella said.

The police chief and superintendent are joining forces with the LEAD program — Law Enforcement Against Drugs — to focus on the changing needs of kids these days.

They’re focusing on social media, and reaching students at an earlier age.

“Issues, opioids, mental health, bullying, well rounded exposure, also connection to local police,” Superintendent Craig Wigley said.

Health teacher Nancy Perez said she has found that for some, the class is the first anti-drug conversation they’ve had.

“We encourage them to break the cycle if that is occurring in their lives,” she said.

That’s why programs like LEAD and DARE. are being revived.

Twenty three law enforcement officers from across New Jersey are training in Somerset County to become DARE officers.

After many programs were cut a decade ago, DARE educator Karen Simon said she has seen an uptick in communities wanting to restart their programs with a focus on opioids.

“I think now communities are saying, we can’t afford not to do that,” Simon said.

According to DARE research, for every dollar spent on prevention $28 is saved on treatment. Lacey is also adding a ‘resource officer’ to the high school as an extension to the LEAD program.