Va. Beach schools teaching new subject: Opioid awareness

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — In recent years, the number of overdose deaths in Hampton Roads has been on the rise. 10 On Your Side has covered numerous opioid addiction stories over the last few months.

Local and state groups continue to find ways to prevent abuse before it happens. In Virginia Beach, schools have joined in the fight.

Lesson plans plastered across poster board sit on the floor in Chief Academic Officer Dr. Amy Cashwell’s office. Each plan covers what Virginia Beach students learned about a new subject: Opioids. It’s a subject that got a push from a school board member.

“I went to the superintendent and said, ‘We have got to beef this up in our curriculum,’” Dr. Cashwell said.

Board member Carolyn Weems knows the subject too well. Her daughter, Caitlyn, died from a heroin overdose four years ago.

“After her death, we learned that Percocet, Vicodin, Dilantin and all those medicines she was taking are actually heroin,” Weems said.

Opioid Addiction: A Deadly Dosage

It’s a lesson Weems won’t forget and she doesn’t want other parents to go through. That’s where Weems thinks the education system can help, through a new opioid curriculum.

“Beginning in grades one and two, you would see concepts like the difference between prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs,” Dr. Cashwell said.

Dr. Cashwell said the curriculum is already in place. Through the progression of grades, the lessons pick up with intensity when students hit high school.

“The students are shown videos that are vignettes of individuals,” Dr. Cashwell said. “They are actually telling the stories about the horrors of addiction.”

In the battle against opioid abuse, this fight goes to the heart of the problem: Knowledge.

Carolyn Weems doesn’t want any other parents to go through what she has lived for the last four years.

“Caitlyn’s legacy will be, needs to be education and hopefully prevention,” Weems said.

A school district that confronted opioid abuse the only way they can — by teaching.