By Marisa Patwa
By Marisa Patwa
The Warrick County Standard
Three Warrick County elementary schools are receiving additional funds and resources for opioid prevention.
Sharon Elementary, Tennyson Elementary and John. H. Castle Elementary are three of 15 schools across the state getting extra social workers and opioid prevention resources thanks to a $811,901 grant from the governor's office to Youth First, Inc.
Jim McClelland, the Governor's Director of Drug Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement, announced the partnership at Sharon Elementary last Wednesday.
"This grant is a part of a strategic approach that the state is taking in response to the opioid crisis that has been devastating so many families, as well as individuals," he said. "Three overarching pieces of that strategic approach are to do all we can to help keep people alive, to expand timely access to treatment for those who have a substance abuse disorder and to greatly increase efforts to prevent others from developing substance abuse disorders."
McClelland said the state wants to do whatever they can to never again face a crisis of this magnitude, arising from the use or misuse of any addictive substance.
"In particular, we must do all we can to prevent substance abuse among young people," he said. "The effects of an addictive substance on the developing brain of a child or young adult are much greater than on the fully developed brain of an adult."
McClelland said there is substantial data showing that the earlier a child starts using any addictive substance, the greater the risk of a serious addiction problem in adulthood.
"Research also shows that the keys to reducing youth substance abuse and other risky behaviors often rely in helping young people manage emotions, cope with challenges," he said.
"It's always better to prevent problems then try to fix them after they develop. It's also more cost effective."
McClelland said the governor's office is pleased to help Youth First work to build better communities.
"Youth First is one of the state's key allies in the battle against substance abuse," McClelland said. "Indiana must attack the opioid epidemic on all fronts, not just through more treatment options and better law enforcement, but also by investing in long-term solutions that delay and reduce drug use among young people."
Parri O. Black, President and CEO of Youth First, Inc. said Youth First embeds master's level social workers in schools to become specialized mentors for at-risk students and skilled prevention coaches for parents and teachers.
"The state's investment adds ten more Youth First Social Workers and prevention programs to schools in Daviess, Monroe, Morgan, Orange, Posey and Warrick counties."
Black said the investment gives close to 7,500 Indiana students an extra layer of protection from the risks and ravages of substance abuse.
"Being a kid can be very hard in this day and age. It's certainly not easier for parents or teachers," she said. "Youth First helps young people cope with life's challenges in healthy ways by building caring relationships, motivating positive changes and developing valuable life skills."
Warrick County schools superintendent Brad Schneider said he is incredibly thankful for the grant.
"And for having the wisdom to provide additional dollars so that we can put these programs in place," he said. "And preventing kids from traveling down a road that we all know, ends up in a bad place, costs a lot of money and wrecks families and lives."
Schneider said he could not be happier with the services.
"I want Youth First social workers to know that their work is not being wasted," he said. "Your work is saving children's lives and that's not an overstatement by any stretch of the imagination."
Ethan, who does not want to reveal his last name, is a local teen who has been helped by Youth First, Inc., and said the program truly saved his life.
"Without Youth First, I would probably not be alive," he said. "I know that's hard to say, but the road I was going down was not healthy, safe or good at all."
Ethan said his success story is because of people who cared. "As a high school student in today's society, it's very scary," he said. "You go home sometimes and you don't necessarily have people to talk too."
Ethan said, luckily, he met his Youth First social worker when he was at his all time low.
"I was doing all the wrong things to get people's attention and she helped me to make positive changes and to grow and to communicate more effectively," he said. "And she helped me to develop the skills to make me feel more comfortable with who I was, and who I am."
Ethan said he is in a good place in his life now. "I stopped making bad decisions and started focusing on school and making my career goals," he said. "Now I am living a drug free life, a healthy life, and am looking forward to the future."
Ethan said he wants other kids to know that they can have the same support and know there is a solution down the halls to their schools.
"I'm not saying that it's easy to find solutions and fight your battles -- I've learned you can't fight it alone," he said. "All I can say is that I am a living testimony that Youth First has helped me."