Heroin Prevention Program Evaluation Demonstrates Correlation Between Program and Improved Resistance Skills by Teens

Hinsdale, IL— The western suburbs have been plagued by heroin-related news this year. A week doesn't pass without news of a death or destruction wreaked by the poppy product. If you’re employed at the Robert Crown Center for Health Education (RCC), chances are pretty good that you’ve had the opportunity to hear some of those stories first hand from community members who have lost their loved ones to the disease of heroin addiction. They may have lost lives to overdose or lost hope after many failed attempts at recovery. Either way, they are dedicated to eradicating heroin from our communities and our families.

In 2008, when one of those grieving family members, Robert Hruby, approached RCC after the death of his grandson, heroin was still highly stigmatized and shrouded in secrecy. Although Robert Crown health educators taught a general series of substance abuse-related classes, heroin was not in the forefront of their thinking. In 2010, with a grant from the Reed Hruby Foundation, RCC began its work on heroin prevention programming. They spent nearly two years researching and developing a program that would meet teens in a productive place. As suspected, that place is digital and there are no lecturing parents allowed.

The program uses a social media case, based on the life of a recovered heroin addict. In the story, the teen begins using prescription pain pills and progresses to using heroin. The story is told using text messages, comic book scenes, “Friendbook” pages, bank statements, report cards, and blogs. Students in the program are empowered to piece together the story themselves and experience the effects of addiction and heroin use on the story’s character, who they come to know and understand during the program.

To date, the program has twice been piloted and evaluated with 11 schools, once in 2013 and once in 2014. The 2014 evaluation, performed by Ryerson Espino Evaluation & Development and released this month, noted that student recipients of the program experienced a positive change in resistance behaviors related to heroin use.

Although deaths due to heroin overdose have been reduced in DuPage County, that reduction is not tied to a decline in use. Rather, it is attributed to more widespread use of the antidote, Narcan. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, heroin use is still on the rise and the heroin available for purchase on the streets becomes ever cheaper. The heroin highway is open for business and Chicago has been identified as a sales hub. NBC News reported in November that Mexican heroin production is expanding, “with smugglers bringing record amounts of the illegal drug across the U.S. southwest border in trucks, cars and backpacks.” These are reasons for concern in our community, especially concern for the highly vulnerable teen population. Law enforcement reports that where there’s demand, there will be supply. For that reason, it is the job of prevention educators to reduce demand.

Today, when you Google heroin prevention, the Robert Crown Center for Health Education is the first result returned out of 11,100,000 potential returns. RCC’s research and development of the Heroin Prevention Program has received wide support from concerned area partners like the DuPage Medical Group, USG Corporation, County of DuPage, Illinois Department of Human Services, and the DuPage Community Foundation. For more information about the RCC Heroin Prevention Program, please contact Project Manager, Kris Adzia, at 630/325-1900.

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