Need: School-based drug misuse prevention program in Appalachian Ohio, a need triggered by a high school student's overdose death.
Intervention: Implementation of the HOPE curriculum, an age-appropriate K through 12th grade drug abuse prevention program.
Results: No further drug overdose deaths after curriculum initiated.
According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and
report using 2016 data, Ohio is behind only West
Virginia in age-related drug overdose deaths.
Belpre, a rural Appalachian town located in southern
Ohio, had not experienced these overdose statistics in
their school-aged population until 2015, when a senior
student and athlete died of a heroin overdose as the
school year opened. This occurrence led school leaders to
HOPE curriculum, or the Health and Opioid-Abuse
Prevention Education program.
The no-cost HOPE curriculum is offered as part of
Talking! an Ohio statewide effort for drug
prevention. HOPE includes "a series of lessons,
assessments and learning materials to develop students'
functional knowledge, attitudes, and necessary skills to
prevent drug abuse." According to Belpre school's
administration, this program follows the research that
indicates that just by engaging school children in the
conversation about illicit drug use has shown to decrease
drug experimentation by 50%.
The curriculum is age-appropriate. In the Belpre system,
course teachers are linked to grade level. For
kindergarten through 2nd grade, lessons are given by the
self-contained classroom teacher, while an intervention
specialist or a social studies teacher might instruct
grades 4 through 6. A science teacher or intervention
specialist usually teaches the higher grades.
Curriculum overview is available by grade:
Includes 4 lessons for each separate grade, teaching
young students about making choices and includes a
kindergarten lesson that uses a puppet to help deliver
Includes 4 lessons for each separate grade, including a
lesson based on a detective's job for role play in
Includes 4 lessons for each grade that build on previous
grades' lessons; for example, expanding on a "Stop,
Think, Choose" decision-making process.
Includes 10 lessons that range from educating students on
the appropriate and inappropriate use of medications, to
role play practice of peer resistance skills, to teaching
students how to help themselves and others when signs of
addiction are identified.
Coursework requires minimal teacher preparation. The
program's plans are described by teachers as thorough,
providing clear talking points, and having
easy-to-integrate learning activities.
Importantly, no additional school-aged overdose
deaths since Fall 2015.
No parent filed exemptions for their children to be
excluded from the program.
School leaders felt that because the curriculum was
designed by school and health teachers themselves, it was
no surprise that formal and informal feedback from the
school system's staff has been positive.
No pushback on the program
occurred from educators, parents, or community members.
The curriculum is included in the June 2018 Ohio
Governor's Cabinet's Opiate Action Team's
HOPE was easily integrated into the Belpre Schools'
overall curriculum and was taught by existing staff.
School leaders believe it important to note that a
supportive community — including leaders from law
enforcement and non-profit organizations involved in drug
prevention — can have positive impact on program
acceptance and success.
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information
about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.