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Minnetonka Schools Launching Opioid Education Program With FBI

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Opioid abuse is such a problem in the U.S. that President Trump has declared it a public health emergency.

One way to help stop the abuse is through education. That's why Minnetonka Public Schools is partnering with the FBI for a pilot program aimed at preventing opioid abuse. Hundreds of 8th grade and 10th grade students will participate.

The growing national epidemic of prescription drug and heroin abuse is making it necessary to start younger when it comes education.

What makes this Minnetonka Public Schools program unique is they're partnering with the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Hennepin County drug court.

The documentary "Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict" shares the stories of people who are struggling to recover. It was produced by the FBI and the DEA.

The video gives young people a realistic view of the dangers of prescription painkillers and heroin. Jeff Erickson is the principal at Minnetonka High School.

"Our role really is to educate students about it and the horrific impact it can have," Erickson said.

In November, 10th graders at Minnetonka High school and 8th graders at Minnetonka East Middle School will spend several hours learning about opioids. The training will be broken into different components across a few days -- watching the documentary, listening to a panel discussion featuring law enforcement officers as well as opioid addicts who are in recovery, and a reflection project.

What makes opioids so dangerous is how quickly you can become addicted.

"I think you look at the fact that one pill can cause you to be an addict," Erickson said. "And I think you look at that impact and what it can lead you to... and it raises the level of concern."

Erickson says the program will be part the school's health education.

"I think if we don't talk about it and share the facts with students and the horrific impact it can have, I don't think we are fulfilling our responsibility to educate students," he said.

Depending on how the pilot program goes with the 8th and 10th graders next month, the Minnetonka School District will look at expanding it to other grade levels.

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