Police Officers and Teachers Uniting For Opioid Prevention Education
The L.E.A.D. (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) program is working to combat the opioid crisis in New Hampshire and across the country.
By Chief Robert Cormier, Tilton Police Department, NH
Communities all over the country are being ravaged by the opioid epidemic, and police departments, parents, and schools are all thinking about what we can do to help our young people impacted by this epidemic. While searching for a solution to begin to halt the harmful realities of this crisis I discovered the Law Enforcement Against Drugs (L.E.A.D.) program. In all of my years of experience, I have yet to see another program like this.
I have been a police officer for 36 years and have worked at departments of all sizes, including in major cities and smaller communities. I first learned about L.E.A.D. three years ago, when I was president of the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association. We knew that we were confronting a crisis like we have never seen before and no one knew what to do. That is when I decided to give the program a try.
We knew that we were confronting a crisis like we have never seen before and no one knew what to do.
Chief Robert Cormier, Tilton Police Department, New Hampshire
L.E.A.D. unites teachers and police officers in schools to teach an evidence-based drug prevention curriculum. Throughout the school year, they take about an hour each week to co-facilitate the material, which directly addresses drugs, bullying, and violence. And to date, L.E.A.D. is the only proven effective K-12 anti-drug/anti-violence curriculum available that is delivered by law enforcement officers and also deals with opioids like fentanyl and other types of drugs like meth. In addition to its outstanding curriculum, part of what makes this program unique is how it enables teachers to uncover challenges in children’s lives that they may not already be aware of. During facilitation, it is common for many kids to share that they have close family members struggling with addiction. In many cases, it is one or both of the child’s parents.
In one instance, a student who had never before raised his hand to speak, told the class that his single-parent father was addicted to drugs. L.E.A.D. has been successful in identifying children who are struggling that would otherwise not have received additional care. As long as certain community services are in place, children can be connected or referred to seek the help that they need, which will enable them to continue to grow and be successful. Here in Tilton, we have many such “wraparound” services, which are often funded by grants. These can include mental health resources for youth and for their families, parenting classes, a youth center and a family resource center, all of which can help to make sure that kids have more of the guidance, clothes, food, and general resources that they need.
Importantly, the L.E.A.D. curriculum also explores the nuts and bolts of addiction. In fact, the most crucial piece of information for students to walk away with is an understanding of the true dangers of addiction. If students can internalize how people get addicted and an addict’s thought process, they can “shield” themselves from many drugs.
After a year of implementing L.E.A.D., I surveyed kids on how they liked the program and, surprisingly for a group of middle schoolers, no one had anything bad to say. Most students loved it, as did my officers and the teachers they worked with. By pairing cops with individual teachers and classrooms, the program is scalable. When police officers get assigned a classroom, they typically spend an hour a week there. That way it can still be effective and not be a drain on police bandwidth.
Now, we are starting to see the L.E.A.D. program expand throughout the state. It is already growing more popular throughout the country and I would encourage any interested law enforcement leaders to seek more info if they want to become involved. For many of these young people, we know that if we do not put time and resources into prevention efforts right now, we risk encountering them as victims of drug addiction later on.
For one hour a week, I promise you, this return on investment is worth it.
You can learn more about L.E.A.D. at leadrugs.org.