From the Office of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice

Game Changers to Implement Opioid and Substance Misuse Prevention Program in West Virginia Schools

CLARKSBURG, WV — Gov. Jim Justice today joined several officials to announce the launch of a new student-powered Opioid and Substance Misuse Prevention Program.

The program is the first of its kind and results from a service agreement between West Virginia Game Changers and the world-renowned Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

Game Changers is a student-powered, substance misuse prevention movement connecting West Virginia students and the educators who care about them through a coordinated, comprehensive prevention education program.

The Game Changers In-School Prevention Program will be implemented in three Harrison County Schools starting in the fall of 2022 including Lincoln High School, Lincoln Middle School, and Big Elm Elementary School.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am today to make this announcement of the first Game Changers Schools,” Gov. Justice said. “The collaboration between Game Changers and the world-renowned Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation shows the level of commitment all of those involved are making to support students and break the cycle of addiction.

“I thank WV Game Changers, Harrison County Schools, our state Board of Education, and Hazelden Betty Ford for joining forces and working with our school systems to make a powerful difference for the next generation of West Virginians.”

West Virginia Game Changers plans to offer the program to all West Virginia elementary, middle, and high schools by the fall of 2027.

The Game Changers initiative focuses on building school environments that curb student drug use by implementing, monitoring, and sustaining Game Changers student peer leadership programs. Paid coaches assigned to each school will work with school counselors, teachers, and the Prevention Team at Hazelden Betty Ford to educate and counsel students and provide resources for those facing or at risk of addiction. The goal is to keep healthy kids healthy, providing them with the information and skills they need to make their own best choices about alcohol and other drugs throughout the growing years and beyond.

Gov. Justice, who serves as head coach of WV Game Changers, was joined at the announcement by West Virginia State Board of Education Member Tom Campbell, Executive Director of WV Game Changers Joe Boczek, Harrison County Schools Superintendent Dora Stutler, and Hazelden Betty Ford Director of Professional Education and Continuum Solutions programming Desirae Vasquez.

“I am incredibly pleased and honored that three schools in Harrison County were chosen to be the first Game Changers Schools in the state,”Harrison County Schools Superintendent Stutler said. “Together we will change the game in West Virginia.”

“Substance misuse prevention education for children is a human right,” Desirae Vasquez said. “We at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation have been privileged to work in partnership with global communities for over 45 years developing the tools needed to bring effective prevention to youth. We are pleased and proud to bring our model to the incredibly deserving children, teens and young adults in all West Virginia schools.”

Also attending the announcement were Harrison County Board of Education members, and WV Game Changers Board members, including Chairman of the Board Larry Puccio, John Ebert, and Rebecca Pomeroy.

“There is no way Game Changers could have achieved the success it has in such a short time without the guidance and support of Gov. Justice,” Joe Boczek, who founded Game Changers in 2018, said. “This is only the beginning! Over the next few months, we’ll be adding schools to the program at a steady pace.”

“I will also be forever grateful for the help and endorsements from Senator Manchin, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and former President of the March of Dimes Dr. Rahul Gupta, Secretary of the WV DHHR Bill Crouch, Commissioner of the WV Bureau of Behavioral Health Christina Mullens, WV Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch and his staff, and Director of the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy Dr. Matt Christiansen.”

To learn more about West Virginia Game Changers, visit: wvgamechanger.com.

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