Grant to fund opiate education in Bristol-area grade schools

MIDDLEBURY — A federal grant will be used to “HELP” students in Bristol-area schools learn about and fight opiate addiction.

The $15,000 Regional Prevention Partnership grant, which flows through the Vermont Department of Health to the United Way of Addison County, will enhance UWAC’s “HELP” initiative.

“HELP” stands for Heroin Epidemic Learning Program, which United Way Regional Prevention Partnership Coordinator Jesse Brooks introduced earlier this year at Middlebury, Vergennes and Mount Abraham union high schools. It’s a completely voluntary eight-week program that includes guest speakers from the medical, recovery and law enforcement communities, as well as some folks who have had direct exposure to the physical and emotional ravages of heroin addiction.

Participating students also break into teams to produce public service announcements to raise awareness about addiction, with the best public service announcements earning the young creators cash prizes.

This new funding for the HELP program will target younger students (grades 5 through 8) — initially in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union, according to Brooks. It will involve the purchase of more than 100 copies of local author Kate Messner’s book “The Seventh Wish,” a story about how a young girl deals with her sister’s battle with opiate addiction. Students will read the book and then discuss it. Brooks will try to get Messner to make an appearance at Mount Abraham to discuss her book and field questions from students.

A portion of the Regional Prevention Partnership grant will also be set aside for student scholarships and more prevention-based programs, resources or materials, according to Brooks.

As of last week, Brooks was optimistic Mount Abe middle schoolers, and kids at Bristol and Starksboro elementary schools, would be joining the United Way’s “The Seventh Wish” initiative.

Eventually, Brooks hopes other Addison County schools will sign up.

For more information, call Brooks at United Way of Addison County at 388-7189.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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