School aims to stop drug use


Seymour High School is taking a new step to prevent substance abuse and address mental health issues in students.

The school is working with Overdose Lifeline Inc. to offer PreVenture, a pilot program that aims to reduce adolescent drug and alcohol use in teenagers.

Overdose Lifeline is the same organization that provides free naloxone to first responders, health departments and other organizations in Indiana and makes the overdose reversal drug available free to the public, too.

Communities across the state, including Jackson County, continue to battle the opioid crisis. In 2017, there were 16 drug overdose deaths in Jackson County.

PreVenture helps identify students early on with personality-related factors that could lead to mental health issues, drug and alcohol use or suicide and provide intervention.

“We hope that this project will prove to be beneficial for our students and that the community realizes how serious we take this problem,” said Seymour High School Principal Greg Prange.

The program will be available to ninth-grade students and is voluntary and confidential. Based on the results of a brief questionnaire, eligible students will be invited to take part in two 90-minute group workshops adapted to their personality.

Students completed the questionnaire Wednesday.

Justin Phillips, founder and executive director of Overdose Lifeline said PreVenture is effective because it is personal and doesn’t have to reach a lot of students to make an impact.

The workshops focus on motivating adolescents to understand how their personality style leads to certain emotional and behavioral reactions and give them the tools they need to pursue and attain long-term goals, said Seymour High School Assistant Principal Catherine DuBois.

Four different workshops are run, each focused on developing specialized coping skills relevant to personality styles, including sensation seeking, impulsivity, anxiety, sensitivity and negative thinking. They will be scheduled for later on in the semester.

“This initiative is being piloted in a small number of counties,” Prange said. “We are fortunate to have the ability to be a part of this project.”

Savannah Brenneke, director of policy and research for Overdose Lifeline said SHS has been one of the largest schools so far to participate in the pilot.

“We were able to screen around 300 of the 363 students in the freshman class,” she said. “We have usually seen around 30 to 45 percent of all students surveyed participate in the actual program.”

Feedback from participating schools in Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Australia, has been positive, Brenneke said.

“Many principals acknowledge that their students are in need of a program that really addresses overall mental health and that develops concrete skills and not just information about why drugs are bad,” she said.

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