Bill would help children impacted by opioid crisis

By Whitney Vickers - [email protected]

COLUMBUS — Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has introduced The Full-Service Community Schools in Distressed Communities Act to help Ohio school districts and students working to achieve academic success in light of Ohio’s addiction epidemic.

Brown is introducing his legislation as he works to secure parts of it in a Senate opioid package currently being negotiated.

“We know the toll the addiction epidemic has taken on communities across our state – including on Ohio’s children. As we think about how best to fight this epidemic of opioid and other drug addiction, our schools have to be part of the solution,” Brown said. “LeBron James’ new I Promise school in Akron incorporates everything from free breakfast and lunch to job placement help for parents – things we know our students need to thrive. But, unfortunately for our schools and our basketball teams, not every community in Ohio has a LeBron James. The Full-Service Community Schools in Distressed Communities Act will get help to the schools and districts that have been hit the hardest by this epidemic, so they can better serve Ohio’s students.”

Trauma, such as parent-related substance abuse, can lead to children having excessive absence and truancy issues, and increases the potential for them to drop out of school. Additionally, such trauma all too often affects student behavior and performance, leaving teachers and under-resourced schools scrambling to provide the level of care and rehabilitation these students need.

Full-service community schools, which provide comprehensive academic, social, and health services, have a proven record of success in meeting the needs of students, families, and their communities and can help address the needs of students in Ohio communities hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic – similar to the ‘I Promise School’ announced by James in July.

Some Ohio schools are leading the way in implementing this model. But far too many don’t have the funding and support they need to be effective. Brown’s bill would work to expand the full-service community school model to communities hit hardest by the addition epidemic.

Ericka Copeland-Dansby, vice president of the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education, explained that the bill would serve the “whole child” by funding “wrap-around services” that address social and mental needs. She said wrap-around services include health care clinics on school campuses that would provide accute care and critical mental health care, as well as tutoring and mentoring services by utilizing community partners such as the United Way, YMCA and others.

“Cincinnati Public Schools’ innovative Community Learning Centers play a critical role in providing mental health and other essential services to our nearly 36,000 students, but sadly even more services are needed to support our students and their families impacted by substance abuse,” Copeland-Dansby. “Senator Brown’s legislation invests in our students by providing community learning centers with critical resources to support the whole child.”

Brown’s bill would:

– Invest $45 million in full-service community schools and direct resources to schools serving low-income students particularly in areas with high poverty and high rates of substance use issues.

– Provide resources for awardees to build collaborative leadership structures between districts, parents, and community partners.

– Fund site coordinators to work with designated school-site advisory teams.

– Set aside 30 percent of funds for rural schools as their students deal with the effects of the opioid crisis.

The Full-Service Community Schools in Distressed Communities Act seeks to work with school to provide the additional supports these students need. The legislation will assist schools and districts most affected by the scourge of drug abuse by providing integrated student supports to boost academic achievement and provide services for non-academic needs.

By Whitney Vickers

[email protected]

Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.

Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.