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Local programs warn students against drugs

December 17, 2015
By Katrina Fuller ( , Westfield Republican

One of the best ways to limit an undesirable behavior is to prevent it, according to area education officials.

Area school districts, in partnership with the countywide Innovate Collaborate Educate 8 or ICE8 initiative, are attacking the community problem of drug use by using preventative and awareness education.

The initiative is a full-circle school health partnership with districts and other organizations throughout the county which will incorporate multiple levels of involvement.

The program not only addresses drug and alcohol use, but also other high-risk behaviors such as tobacco use and more.

The idea for the program came from community opiate addiction forums, said David O'Rourke, Erie2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES superintendent.

"We were in attendance at those forums and we were thinking about how we could help (with those issues). Anti-drug education is more than a Red Ribbon week," O'Rourke said. "It's about helping children overall make healthy choices. I think the ICE8 program will give educators much-needed tools to help with (this issue)."

O'Rourke said 18 out of 27 component districts in Erie2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES, or all of the Chautauqua County school districts, have signed on for the health and wellness program. Within the program, he said there are a number of components that encourage students to make healthy choices and also encourage parents to support good decision making.

The program contains a curriculum based on the Michigan Model for Health program, which provides age-appropriate lessons that address alcohol, tobacco and other drug use; prevention of HIV and AIDS; nutrition; physical activity and other wellness issues. Project Know and American Red Cross CPR and First Aid certifications will also be integrated.

"This program will impact thousands of students," O'Rourke said. "I believe ICE8 will be a catalyst for change in our county and our region. This program will impact every school district in Chautauqua County and provide a unified, comprehensive approach."

Aside from preventing substance abuse in children throughout the region, he said he feels the initiative will focus efforts on helping students engage in protective, health-enhancing behaviors, avoid risk behaviors and increase health knowledge.

O'Rourke said the program has a full measure of support from the county government.

"The county has said some of the best dollars are spent on prevention," he said. "Christine Schulyer, Chautauqua County public health director and social services commissioner, has been a real source of vision and drive (through this)."

Tim Mains, Jamestown Public Schools District superintendent, said he also believes the initiative will help students make better decisions and become healthier individuals.

"(Drug abuse prevention) is certainly a part of the initiative. ICE8 also deals with building their social and emotional being, helping them become aware of themselves, read social and emotional situations as well as decision making," Mains said, adding these skills and assets are important in helping students abstain from substance and alcohol abuse. "There are several elements I feel will be effective as measures to prevent drug use and other high-risk behaviors."

He said another important facet of ICE8 is an emphasis on physical activity.

"Some kids get attracted to drugs because of the thrill. Well, you can also get a thrill from physical activity," Mains said. "It feels good to be physically active. If we can teach students to be physically active, they are less likely to get involved in drugs because they already feel good about themselves."

Making sure students feel welcome, accepted and comfortable in their own skin is an important piece of drug-use prevention, he said.

"There is an awareness about drugs and alcohol in the curriculum, but the vehicle we believe will be most effective is to build healthy and happy kids," Mains said. "These sorts of kids are least likely to get involved in risky behaviors like drugs and alcohol. We're growing the whole child and paying attention to the social and emotional health of the child."

Additionally, Mains said the district is one of six that participates in the Creating Healthy Schools and Community grant from the Chautauqua County Health Network. The grant allows the school to better integrate pieces of the ICE8 initiative.

"This also gives us a focus on physical activity, nutritious foods and educating the community on how they can help us support these activities," he said. "These are all new initiatives."

Mains said the ICE8 initiative is shifting the focus onto determent in schools and the community.

"Prevention is where it's at," he said. "We've been chasing the supply for years, but what we have to get at is the demand."



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