WVU group receives funding to train teachers how to deal with opioid crisis

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A partnership started by West Virginia University has received funding to develop and distribute materials to help state teachers support their students who may be dealing with a family member’s substance use disorder.

Called the Project TRAIN initiative – Teacher Resources for Addiction Impact Now – is part of a collaboration with the Region 5 Comprehensive Center at Westat. The funding will allow two educators at WVU College of Education and Human Services (Jessica Troilo, associate dean for academic affairs, and Frankie Tack, clinical assistant professor and program coordinator of the addiction studies minor) to provide online training for teachers covering four different topics – an addictions overview, a review of family systems and their impact on students’ classroom behaviors, strategies for interacting with parents and students, and teacher self-care.

A report from the United Hospital Fund found that West Virginia has the highest rate of children being affected by the opioid crisis – 54 out of every 1,000 children.

“We hope to build the capacity of teachers in responding to the challenges of the opioid crisis,” Troilo said. “What that means is increasing the confidence of teachers in managing and working with students impacted by substance use disorders in the home. We want to provide them with the tools they need to be successful.”

Troilo and Tack, along with Lauren Prinzo, an assistant professor and Extension Specialist in
community and economic development in WVU Extension Service’s Family and Community Development Unit, will develop the training modules and then deliver them to educators throughout the state and surrounding states.

“WVU Extension is working across units to find ways that we impact substance misuse across the state. When this project came along, and we talked about partnering, it was a perfect fit,” Prinzo said. “We have county-based faculty in all 55 counties of West Virginia, and there’s a lot of interest among our faculty in working directly with schools and youth to address this issue and support people in recovery.”

The content is based on information received by Troilo and Tack during a 2019 survey of teachers. In the survey, teachers reported never having received training on what to do for students whose parents or caregivers have substance use issues. Additionally, 70 percent of the teachers reported some level of burnout every month.

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