Marion County students learn 'One Pill Can Kill' at GameChanger event

Feb. 22—FAIRMONT — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice brought the substance misuse prevention program GameChanger to Marion County students on Tuesday..

As coach of the GameChanger Movement, it's Justice's job to share the program with students in hopes they will not fall into a life of substance misuse.

"It's a big honor and a big responsibility. Again, I just, I'm just wanting to do what I always have done. At the end of the day, if you really are doing this job in the right way, you're doing it to serve- you're not doing it for something for self, you know, good stuff will happen," Justice said.

GameChanger is a substance misuse prevention movement that works to connect West Virginia students and educators with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to build school environments and prevent opioid and other drug use with students before it starts, according to their website.

At Fairmont State University on Tuesday, over 2,000 freshman and sophomore students watched a film from GameChanger called "One Pill Can Kill," which is about the dangers of drug usage, specifically fentanyl.

GameChanger Founder Joe Boczek, of Morgantown, said the plan is to show the 30-minute documentary to students across the state, as the film is more accessible than the GameChanger programs that will take three to five years to implement across West Virginia.

"We felt it was ultra important to complement the prevention education we're trying to get in our schools by having something that we can get to the mass of kids. Our prevention education program, Governor Justice has given us some lofty goals and that will take three to five years to implement in all 700 public and private schools. This is something that we can begin implementing right now to educate kids on and this is probably the most important because it's getting worse and worse each day," Boczek said.

North Marion High is one of 12 schools participating in the GameChanger pilot, and Marion County Schools Superintendent Doctor Donna Heston said they are excited to introduce the program in high schools and middle schools around the county.

"One of the things that's so powerful about this initiative, is it's students mentoring students with this overall message, resources and support provided," Heston said. "That will be sustainable; it'll carry through generations. We face a lot of generational poverty and a lot of generational addiction and depression. We see that in our schools. I know the governor sees that as he travels the state. And there are a lot of people that prey upon that.

This is really taking a stand. We talk about coaching and breeding champions and this is our opportunity. I'm very blessed and pleased at how our students performed today and how they listened."

Heston said safety and security are vital in Marion County Schools, which puts drug prevention at the top of the priority list.

"I would say that it is one of the top problems that we have, given, as I said, depression, anxiety and just students wanting to find acceptance and belonging. I think that's one of the unfortunate things of the drug industry — that's where students turn to, at times to find that belonging. The GameChanger initiative is showing us that there are other ways," Heston said.

Justice shared similar sentiments regarding the wellbeing of West Virginia students.

"At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than our kids," Justice said.

Justice reminded students to work hard, "Stand up for yourself and don't screw it up," at the end of the assembly on Tuesday morning.

Heston said the next step in Marion County's GameChanger plan is to have high school students mentor middle school students on drug awareness and prevention.

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