Aug. 5—With the start of the school year right around the corner, St. Joseph School District staff and the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force are seeking ways to prevent drug use among students.
Capt. Shawn Collie of the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force said heroin and fentanyl are two main drugs that have been on the rise since the pandemic hit, and they are continuing to spread throughout the city.
The Buchanan County Opioid Task Force is tackling the issue by educating the younger population on the dangers of prescription and street drugs.
"Many young kids are trusting their friends and taking whatever it is they put in their hands," Collie said. "Oftentimes, it's just a fake pill that has fentanyl or some other hazardous drug mixed in."
Collie said the Drug Strike Force plans to use all of its resources to put a stop to drug use in the entire community, but the group is also paying close attention to students using it as death rates increase in younger people.
SJSD has increased the number of district social workers by adding one to each middle school and high school in the area.
Shannon Nolte, director of nonacademic student services, said he hopes this will allow students and parents to reach out about concerns and issues with drugs.
"We've started a partnership with Youth Alliance, the health department, Mosaic and other organizations for help," Nolte said. "Working with these agencies in the community is giving us the help we need to educate our parents and families."
Nolte said coming out of the pandemic has increased access to drugs for students, and SJSD plans to continue implementing curriculum for grades K-12 regarding the dangers of drug use.
"When students are in school, they're taught the right things, so we have high hopes to tackle the issue through educating," he said.
The St. Joseph Police Department is planning to have an officer come and speak with students about drug laws and safety during the school year.