ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, FEBRUARY 1, 2019 — 2018 was another record-breaking year for Anne Arundel County, Maryland. In 2018, the County once again broke its own record for fatal opioid overdoses in a calendar year. In Anne Arundel County alone, there were a total of 166 fatal opioid overdoses in 2018, up 7.1% from 2017. The problem goes beyond opioids: in 2017, Anne Arundel County had the third highest number of deaths from drugs and alcohol for the state of Maryland (214 deaths), after Baltimore City and Baltimore County. In spite of the various programs and hard work by many, this epidemic has been growing for decades, and now adversely affects all segments of society – individuals, families, and businesses. New innovative, more effective approaches are needed.
To that end a new program approach is now being piloted in three Anne Arundel County High Schools for the 2018/2019 academic year. The ‘Living The Example’ (LTE) program is an innovative peer-to-peer-driven drug prevention and education program. Its primary focus is to engage students as messengers, “Youth Ambassadors,” urging their friends to enjoy healthy and productive lives, free from substance use and also drive school-wide “change projects.” The program incorporates messages for prevention specifically designed to counteract the misconceptions that many adolescents have about drugs and alcohol.
This program, developed and implemented by Mentor Foundation USA in partnership with George Washington University, has shown promising results in terms of shifting students attitudes away from drugs and their intent to use. Read the published pilot evaluation in JMIR Mental Health.
“LTE is a unique prevention program because of its integral collaboration with young people. The peer-to-peer nature of this program recognizes the fact that peers are primary influencers of youth behavior. LTE also makes use of social media in addition to face-to-face peer interaction to communicate healthy messages to youth, engages community stakeholders in prevention efforts, and has produced encouraging results”, says Dr. Robert DuPont, Board Member of Mentor Foundation USA, President for the Institute for Behavior and Health, and the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
This innovative program is made possible by the generous support from: Anne Arundel County Department of Health; Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; Second Genesis Foundation; and with the coordination and collaboration efforts from Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
Mentor Foundation USA is a member affiliate of Mentor International, which was founded in 1994 by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden and the World Health Organization. Mentor is the largest network of its kind for evidence-based programs that prevent substance use among youth. Collectively, Mentor has implemented projects in over 80 countries, impacting more than 6 million youth. Mentor is now represented in the USA, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, the UK, and has regional offices in Lebanon serving 22 Arab countries.