State Launches New Substance Use Prevention Initiative To Reach All Public Middle Schools In Massachusetts

BOSTON, MA — Attorney General Maura Healey and the GE Foundation recently announced a $2 million public-private initiative, along with Epicenter Experience and The Herren Project, that will bring new resources to students in every public middle school in Massachusetts to help address the opioid epidemic.

AG Healey announced the first-of-its-kind initiative, Project Here, at a recent launch event at the GE headquarters with Ann R. Klee, president of the GE Foundation and vice president of GE’s Boston Development & Operations.

They were joined by Chris Herren, Founder of The Herren Project, Paul Krasinski, CEO of Epicenter Experience, Michael Botticelli, Executive Director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine and Andrew McCall, a recovery coach.

The new initiative will provide substance use prevention education to middle school students through an innovative combination of in-classroom programs, mobile content, and access to a support network of social workers. The GE Foundation has funded this initiative with a $1.5 million contribution, along with $500,000 in settlement funds from the AG’s Office.

Project Here will provide curriculum materials to every public middle school in Massachusetts, as well as support resources for students who are struggling with addiction, trainings for educators and parents on substance use prevention, and access to an innovative mobile platform with prevention content.

“Education and prevention are the keys to ending the opioid epidemic, and our partnership with the GE Foundation will help us tackle this public health crisis and protect our middle school students from addiction,” AG Healey said. “Through a multi-faceted approach – reaching students in the classroom and on their mobile devices – we will empower them to make the right decisions, promote health and wellness, and lead change in their schools and communities. I thank the GE Foundation, Epicenter Experience, and The Herren Project for stepping up to the plate and contributing their talent and time to this critical effort.”

“When GE announced its move to Boston, we also announced a $50 million philanthropic commitment to the city and surrounding area, with $15 million of that targeted to community health,” said Ann R. Klee. “From the moment we arrived in Boston, we heard from so many that substance use and the opioid crisis was a critical need for the community. We’re proud to work with AG Healey on Project Here to educate our youth today and prevent our kids from falling into the vicious cycle of the opioid epidemic.”

“We are thrilled to be able to participate and contribute to this important public-private partnership. It is a critical issue to address across our country,” said Paul Krasinski, Epicenter Experience CEO. “We realize that people are the epicenter for change and thus developed the core technology for Project Here, to connect people to truly solve people problems together. Whether these middle school students are here, there or anywhere, they will know that we are here to support them and they are empowered to be a hero for others through their knowledge and education.”

“The first step in addressing the substance use issues in our communities is to provide education and prevention strategies for children in the middle school years while they are developing a sense of self. All too often we focus on the last day of addiction and not the first. We praise our children for their academic and athletic accomplishments, but fall short on personal wellness,” said Chris Herren, Founder of The Herren Project. “I am proud to have The Herren Project be a part of this innovative partnership providing education, support and the opportunity to for students to be proud of who they are, to embrace life’s challenges without turning to substances knowing that they are good enough and perfect just the way they are.”

As a part of Project Here, Epicenter Experience will lead the design of a first-of-its-kind mobile application that will give students, educators, and parents easy access to prevention resources and information, and help young people who are struggling with addiction or the impact of substance use get the help they need and connect with The Herren Project.

Through Project Here, all Massachusetts middle schools will have the opportunity to join the Project Purple Initiative, a program through The Herren Project that helps schools talk with students about the dangers of substance use. Students will also have access to The Herren Project’s support team, including social workers ready to respond to students in need of help.

This initiative is meant to complement other prevention efforts under way across the state and will include an Advisory Board comprised of key stakeholders and experts.

This announcement is the latest effort by AG Healey to address the unmet need for youth prevention and education services to combat the opioid epidemic, a key priority of her administration. In May, the AG’s Office distributed $700,000 in settlement funding directly to school districts, nonprofits and community organizations to fund prevention programming through its Youth Opioid Prevention Grant Program.

Young people are particularly vulnerable to the risks of substance use. Ninety percent of all adults struggling with addiction started using when they were under the age of 18, and 50 percent were under the age of 15. Studies have shown that effective substance use education and prevention programming can significantly decrease the risk of addiction among young people.

(NOTE: The above press release is from the Attorney General’s Office.)

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