Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a new $2 million initiative aimed at substance abuse prevention with middle-schoolers statewide, which marks the latest effort to tackle the opioid epidemic across the state.
It’s unclear how much of the funds will go to Franklin County schools, but the announcement of the program, Project Here, tells local leaders that the Attorney General’s Office is continuing to focus on young ages as a long-term investment.
“You can’t start too early,” Northwest District Attorney David Sullivan said. “Middle school is certainly a great time to put in a prevention program.”
The program, sponsored with private money through a new partnership with the GE Foundation, will likely work in complement to the pre-existing LifeSkills initiative. This month the Franklin Regional Council of Governments was notified they would receive $20,000 to help fund local schools for the statewide evidence-based program that also is geared toward prevention.
“It’s a really great step forward. We have LifeSkills in many of the middle schools at this point,” Sullivan said. “But I think it’s going to fill in the gap for a school system that doesn’t have the resources to implement LifeSkills.”
The initiative is a more short-term program that schools may be able to implement if they cannot run LifeSkills, Sullivan added. It will combine “in-classroom programs, mobile content, and access to a support network of social workers,” a press release from the AG’s Office said.
“In our rural region, the Project Here effort will build upon the good work of the LifeSkills program, championed by District Attorney David Sullivan’s office and ably carried out by the Franklin Regional Council of Government’s Partnership for Youth,” Opioid Task Force’s Debra McLaughlin said in a statement.
Project Here is suppose to provide materials for every middle school in the state. A majority of the funding comes from the GE Foundation, $1.5 million, while $500,000 came from settlement funds out of the AG’s Office.
“It is heartening to see how the Attorney General’s office and other private partners, are using their collective influence and resources to prevent youth from becoming addicted to opioids and other substances,” McLaughlin said in her statement.
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