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UPMC Health Plan Reinvests in Regional Opioid/Heroin Prevention Education Program

Posted on November 1, 2018

Johnstown, PA (Nov. 1, 2018) –Since UPMC Health Plan first joined other local/regional funders in 2016-17 to support the This is (Not) About Drugs (TNAD) opioid/heroin prevention education program, The Learning Lamp has helped more than 8,000 middle and high school students in a four-county area recognize that misusing prescription pain pills carries the same risks as using heroin.Thanks to a $10,000 continuation grant from UPMC Health Plan, TNAD is once again available FREE to schools, teachers, parents and other community groups during the 2018-19 school year. “Education is an important early step in helping our children avoid drug abuse, and UPMC Health Plan is pleased to support The Learning Lamp’s continued efforts to educate students about the dangers of prescription pill misuse,” said Dr. James Schuster, chief medical officer for Medicaid, Special Needs, and behavioral health services at UPMC Health Plan. “Increased awareness about the dangers of prescribed and non-prescribed opioids among middle and high school age children can help to improve the overall health of our region.” Participant outcomes from the program’s first two years found that, on average, less than half of students understood the pain pill to heroin connection prior to engaging in the TNAD program.That means students did not know that prescription pain killers and heroin are both opioids and carry the same risks of addiction, overdose and death. “Following the program, 9 of 10 students walked away with a clearer understanding that when misused, prescription opioids are equally as dangerous and addictive as heroin,” explained Lisa Stofko, prevention programs manager at The Learning Lamp. “What’s more, post-program surveys found 4 of 5 students agreed that they were less likely to misuse prescription pills or heroin as a result of their participation. The Learning Lamp is grateful to UPMC Health Plan for enabling us to continue to share this eye-opening information.” TNAD student outcomes also align with results from the 2017 Pennsylvania Youth Survey for Cambria County. The survey from the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency was conducted in fall of 2017, nearly a year after This is (Not) About Drugs was introduced to high school students in 11 of 12 Cambria County public school districts. In 2015, prior to the launching of TNAD, 10% of high school seniors in Cambria County admitted to misusing prescription narcotics in their lifetime. In contrast, in 2017, 7% of high school seniors (students that would have received TNAD as 11th graders) admitted to trying someone else’s prescription pain pills. Although exposure to This is (Not) About Drugs and other stepped up opioid/heroin awareness efforts appears to have reduced some level of experimentation with prescription pain pills among youth in the region, there is still more work to do. The PAYS reaffirmed that willingness to try someone else’s prescription narcotics builds as children advance from elementary to middle school and on into high school. For example, lifetime misuse of prescription narcotics went from 1.2% in grade 6 to 7% in grade 12 in 2017, regardless of education efforts, and misuse among 10th graders increased by nearly 3% points from about 5% 2015 to nearly 8% in 2017. Separate middle school and high school versions of This is (Not) About Drugs are available, as well as workshop modules for teachers, parents and community groups. To learn more or to schedule TNAD for your school or group, call Elizabeth ElBayly at 814-262-0732 ext. 287 or email her at eelbayly@thelearninglamp.org.

The Learning Lamp is a nonprofit organization with a mission to engage all children in the support they need to succeed. We deliver high quality programs that are affordable and accessible to families of all income levels. The Learning Lamp served 37,197 children and adults from 52 school districts and 71 non-public and private schools and other organizations in 19 Pennsylvania counties and communities in Maryland and West Virginia in 2017.

Our programs include: one-to-one tutoring; before/after school programs; portable classrooms aimed at building math and science skills; alternative education programs for at-risk students; evidence-based prevention programs; online learning and credit recovery; SAT preparation; educationally-focused child care; literacy-based preschool programs; and grant writing and project consulting for schools.


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