Places like Marysville, Arlington and Snohomish County are doing a great job dealing with the homeless and opioid epidemic through their embedded social worker programs.
That’s when a social worker goes out with police into the woods and other places homeless people congregate. They talk to them about getting help through various programs. Homeless people can get clean and sober, housing and even jobs.
That is a wonderful program, and there are other programs nationwide – both public and private – that help addicts and homeless.
However, there has to be a better way. As is often the case nowadays, society is focused on trying to help those in trouble. A better route would be to stop the problem before it even starts. That takes education, at a young age and continuing throughout school.
Schools nationwide used to have a curriculum called Drug Abuse Resistance Education starting in 1983. However, starting in 1992 various studies found DARE to be ineffective. The curriculum has changed over the years, and it is still used in some districts, although not nearly to the extent it once was. While the curriculum may have been flawed, the concept is not. Only by educating young people about the perils of drugs will they understand the consequences of using. If they are not taught, they are more likely to experiment on their own. Remember those horrific crashes we saw learning about not wearing your seatbelt or driving while drunk? Those were effective. Seeing documentaries on drug users also would be effective. In a discussion with Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary last week, he agreed that education is key to stopping the problem before it starts. He said he actually liked the DARE program, despite all its critics.
At least society was making a concentrated effort to try and stop children from using drugs. Dropping the program certainly hasn’t helped – look at the opioid epidemic nationwide as proof.
If the Marysville and Arlington school districts would take a look at the new DARE program and still don’t like it, there are other options. The Marysville Together Coalition, for example, already teaches an anti-drug program, but its scope is limited. Taking it to all the schools could make a bigger difference.
Another aid to an anti-drug movement could be more counseling in schools, according to a resident at Marysville’s new Oxford House (see story Page 1). She said even though there was drug use in her house, if she could have received some counseling it could have made a difference. She needed someone to talk to.
In Marysville, there are School Resource Officers and more counselors than there were a few years ago, but more could be needed. The benefits of more counselors in schools could help in so many ways.
If you’re worried about the cost of all this, time and time again it has been proved that fixing a problem before it starts is less expensive than afterward. That opioid epidemic is proof that there has to be a better way. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying a different way. Of course reading, writing and arithmetic are still important. And those could still be taught using cross curriculum with an anti-drug message. But schools also need to change their outlook and teach how to survive in this fast-changing world full of different pressures that were not as prevalent years ago.