Wolf expresses support for House Bill that makes opioid education mandatory in schools

Governor Tom Wolf

HARRISBURG — Governor Tom Wolf today voiced his support for House Bill 1190, which proposes a school-based substance abuse prevention and intervention program for all students in grade kindergarten through 12.

“The measures outlined in House Bill 1190 will take the fight against heroin and opioid abuse to the next level – the classroom, where education plays a key role in prevention,” Wolf said in a press release. “I support this legislation because we know that even with the progress we have made in attacking the heroin and opioid crisis head on, we must do more – and education of our young people can lead them to make the smart decision to not use drugs now or for the rest of their lives.”

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, factors that contribute to the emergence of substance abuse in the pediatric population are multi-factorial. Behavioral, emotional, and environmental factors that place children at risk for the development of substance abuse may be remediated through prevention and intervention programs that use “research-based, comprehensive, culturally relevant, social resistance skills training and normative education in an active school-based learning format.”

Experts agree that the younger a child starts to abuse and misuse controlled substances and prescription drugs, the higher the risks of serious health consequences, adult substance abuse and eventual addiction.

The legislation is sponsored by Representative Joanna McClinton, 191st legislative district, Philadelphia and Delaware counties.

“The time is now that we get ahead of the opioid epidemic,” McClinton said. “Overdoses are rampant among our children and young adults. This bill will create a prevention and intervention program that will be taught in schools across the commonwealth to students in every grade.”

HB1190 would require the Department of Education to work with the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to provide guidance and recommendations designed to help school districts with the development and implementation of research-based curriculum guidelines for an effective age-appropriate, school-based program of instruction in substance abuse prevention and intervention.

Each school district would be required to provide each school student mandatory instruction in substance abuse prevention and intervention every school year in grades kindergarten through 12. School districts would be required to integrate instruction in substance abuse prevention into their health courses or, if health is not offered in a specific grade, in any other appropriate curriculum required by the State Board of Education.

The legislation outlines that the program would include instruction in both controlled substance and prescription drug abuse and misuse, including illicit drugs, such as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine; and opioids.

Currently, school districts are required to provide age-appropriate information about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs for students in grades 3, 6, 9, and 12 as part of Pennsylvania’s Academic Standards for Health, Safety & Physical Education. The proposed HB1190 would mandate instruction in all grades and would expand the scope of K-12 education regarding substance use and abuse in the commonwealth.