opinion

Managing marijuana’s influence on students

Erin Whipple - Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 7/26/17

The School Health Professional Grant (SHPG) program, through the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) intends to increase the availability of school-based prevention, early intervention and health care services and programs to reduce the risk of …

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opinion

Managing marijuana’s influence on students

Posted

The School Health Professional Grant (SHPG) program, through the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) intends to increase the availability of school-based prevention, early intervention and health care services and programs to reduce the risk of marijuana and other substance use and abuse by secondary school students.

During the 2014-2015 school year, Griff Wirth, principal at Wheat Ridge High School, recognized a need in the schools and community for substance use prevention and approached the school district about applying for the grant.

Jeffco initially received a one-year grant and re-applied last year for a three-year grant which was awarded and received.

Jeffco schools not only have to grapple with the impact of marijuana shops down the street, they are also very likely impacted by the proliferation of shops just outside the district’s borders in Denver. Staff at Wheat Ridge High School (WRHS) and Everitt Middle School (EMS), as well as at other schools in the district, have reported, anecdotally, a rise in awareness among students about marijuana, a new acceptance of use, and even an uptick in use among students. Recognizing that increased use may not directly correlate to an increase in disciplinary action, Jeffco has seen a significant increase in drug-related suspensions at the secondary level since legalization. Jeffco is addressing the increase by providing students with more extensive coping and behavioral health skills.

As the prevention counselor at WRHS and EMS, I have over 13 years of experience in the mental health and education fields. My position allows Jeffco Public Schools to address gaps and needs to better support behavioral health and substance use health care services and prevention by increasing the presence of school counselors dedicated to this work.

At a universal level, I’m delivering evidence-based programing (EBP), facilitating smaller groups to promote coping and behavioral health skills, and providing resources and referrals to students and families. I’m also co-facilitating the Healthy Schools Teams at both schools; the high school team is led by students with adults helping guide the work.

Partnering with the local public health department, marijuana prevention groups, and communityagencies has been imperative for me to provide accurate information and education to the school community.

I’ve also been continuously working with the Student Engagement Office to assure early identification, intervention, referral, and parent/family engagement are synchronized. It’s been incredible to see the enthusiasm of the students and helping to sort facts from myths for both parents and students.

If you have any questions, would like more information, or want to learn ways I can help support your student and family, please contact me, Erin Whipple, at erin.whipple@jeffco.k12.co.us or 303-906-8034.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Wheat Ridge community.

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