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Drug and alcohol awareness events scheduled at Hampton schools

| Monday, March 13, 2017, 11:50 p.m.

The Hampton School District hopes to help residents and students address the problems surrounding rampant drug abuse in the region through two informational sessions.

The district is partnering with Pennsylvania Alliance for Safe and Drug Free Children in response to the growing rate of drug addiction and overdoses, particularly those involving heroin and opiates, according Dr. Michael Loughead, Hampton superintendent.

“It's affecting our region and our state and it's frightening,” said Loughead at a Feb. 6 school board meeting. “We have some good resources in this region to turn to and this will not be a one and done … we will keep this topic in focus.”

The events will be held March 22 at the high school and March 23 at the middle school, both from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The middle school event will be geared towards parents and students of that age group and the high school event for those grade levels.

Both programs will feature short videos on how “highly-addictive drugs impact families,” according to Dr. John Thornton, school psychologist. They'll hear stories from young adults in recovery and learn what signs to look for in children who may be abusing drugs and alcohol, according to Thornton.

An informational letter on the events is going to students' homes and registration is requested on the school website. An electronic survey will be sent to families so they can post how many adults and/or children are attending. Also, they will be able to anonymously post a question in the comment box that can be addressed at meeting.

The registration isn't mandatory, rather it's to gauge how many people will attend.

Both evenings will also feature a panel discussion with experts in counseling and law enforcement. Information on drug and alcohol trends and statistics will also be provided, according to Thornton.

At the recent board meeting, Student Council Vice President Jodi Zatezalo offered suggestions on spreading the word, such as posters in rest rooms where she said “it's guaranteed to be read.” She also recommended school video announcements.

According to information from the Allegheny County Health Department, there have been 1,962 drug overdose deaths between 2008 and 2014 in the county; with approximately 1,400 deaths attributed to opioid use.

In addition, opioid-related deaths increased most rapidly among residents between ages 25 and 34.

“This epidemic has touched many communities in the North Hills area, including our own,” said Loughead in the letter.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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