Columbus -- Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine told an audience of educators July 26 that he would like to see age-appropriate instruction on drug addiction from kindergarten through high school, as part of efforts to counter the state's heroin epidemic.
"If we're serious about prevention, if we're serious about education, if we're serious about stopping kids from starting on drugs, you have to start in kindergarten," DeWine said. "And you have to do something that's age-appropriate every single year. So for 13 years, you have to be doing something."
He added, "If we don't do it now, we're going to have a new problem the next year and the next year."
In an address during the Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education's Connections to Education Conference, DeWine said the educational element, combined with law enforcement and other efforts, were needed to reduce addiction and overdose deaths in the longterm, for a drug that can be had more quickly than a pizza.
"Today in Ohio and other states, you can get heroin as cheaply as you can buy a pizza -- sometimes cheaper," he said, adding, "And you can get it delivered as quickly / You'll have it in less than an hour."
The attorney general's office and other state agencies have increasing shifted their focus to the heroin issue, as overdose deaths continue to rise and users turn to more dangerous combinations of the drug -- batches mixed with other drugs, including fentanyl, for example.
DeWine told reporters July 26 that he has spoken to legislative leadership and hopes that a working group or task force will be formed to consider ways to implement consistent anti-drug education in classrooms throughout primary and secondary schooling.
Any resulting recommendations would be forwarded to lawmakers for potential future legislation.
"This has to be done right," DeWine said. "We have to think it through. We have to include educators because they're the ones that are going to have to implement it / We've been talking. I think we're getting close to rolling that out."
DeWine cited efforts already under way at schools in Boardman in Trumbull County, which have purchased a drug abuse and addiction program.
"There are some schools that are trying to do this," he said. "/ They're integrating into their science curriculum and their health curriculum, depending on the grade / They think this will work. They don't think it's a burden for them."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.