The opioid epidemic in the United States has reached alarming heights in recent years, and unfortunately, it appears that schools are not immune to its devastating effects. Since the start of the new school year, Cleveland has seen a sharp increase in opioid use among its students, and it’s a situation that District officials say must be addressed.
“Counting this morning, we have had 15 ambulance calls to the District this year, mainly to the high school, for drug-related issues. Eight have been drug overdoses and four of the eight we had to administer Narcan to the students. It was that serious,” said Cleveland ISD Superintendent Stephen McCanless.
To address the threat head-on, Cleveland ISD is working with Dr. Joy Alonzo, chair of the Opioid Task Force at Texas A&M University, the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Police Department and other entities to host two town hall meetings in October where a limited supply of Narcan will be distributed to members of the community on a first-come, first-served basis.
The town hall meetings are set for 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 18 at Cleveland Civic Center, and from 6 to 8 p.m., Oct. 23, at Santa Fe Middle School.
The town hall meetings are open to anyone in the community regardless of whether or not they have school-aged children or children who attend Cleveland ISD.
“We need the community to support us in this fight. We do not want one preventable death,” McCanless said. “Cleveland ISD Police Chief Angela Allen summed up the District’s sentiment by saying that the District cannot arrest its way out of this problem. We have to educate our way out of it.”
McCanless said the drug education efforts really ramped up last year.
“We started with our fentanyl and opioid educational stuff last year, but for this crisis that we have now to pop up so quickly, it has us concerned,” he said.
One common factor in most of the overdoses is that they are happening in the early morning hours after the students first show up for school. McCanless said it is possible that the students are using the drugs at home and then begin to experience signs of overdosing an hour or so later.
“The kids think these drugs are recreational but they are really playing with death,” he said.
To see McCanless’s message to the community about the crisis, go online to: