BRIGHTON — On May 15, middle school students at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School attended a presentation by the Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) Task Force, a nonprofit organization that creates awareness about drug overdoses through education, family support and purposeful advocacy to reduce their frequency and impact.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 28,000 fatal unintentional drug poisonings in the United States each year.
“There is nearly one death every day in Palm Beach County, and Okeechobee County has had 50 in the last two years alone,” said Frank Whiting, director of the Okeechobee County Substance Abuse Coalition and NOPE coordinator.
The NOPE presentation consisted of three main topics: addiction, the danger of combining drugs, and the ability and need to save a life. Individual stories of juvenile and young adult overdoses were shared, bringing the presentation into a more realistic light.
“This is happening in every middle and high school in the nation,” PECS principal Brian Greseth said. “People are making poor choices and it is costing them their life.”
Students heard an actual 911 call made by a mother who came home to find her son deceased on his bedroom floor due to an overdose of the prescription drug Xanax. The cafeteria was completely silent as students listened to the mother’s heart-wrenching phone call.
“I’ve been that Road Patrol Officer that pulls into the driveway with the parents begging me to breathe life back into their child,” said Capt. John Rhoden, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department. “All it takes is just one pill, or the first time drinking or using drugs, that may end a life.”
Students learned that drugs and alcohol do not discriminate; the youngest child the presenters told students about was only 13 years old.
They also learned the importance of saving a life and not waiting until it is too late to get friends or family members the help they need.
“The presentation made me get teary eyed,” said eighth-grader Crysten Smith. “I realize even more that I want to stay away from drugs and go to college and graduate.”
“Everyone should stay away from drugs and accomplish what they believe in,” added classmate Diamond Shore. “Doing drugs will only get in the way.”