Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pittsburgh Carrick Partners with Pitt School of Pharmacy

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pittsburgh Carrick Partners with Pitt School of Pharmacy

Article excerpt

When a student at Pittsburgh Carrick High School lost her mother to an overdose last year, she was very private about it.

Students at the school - in the heart of the neighborhood hardest hit by the local opioid crisis - see the effects of drug use every day, even though they aren't using the drugs themselves.

"They never come out and say it because [I think] there's a shame that they feel," said school principal Angel Washington. "We try to make it something that's OK to talk about, because we think obviously that people on this side of town specifically have been touched by it somehow."

According to data sorted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, last year there were at least 31 fatal drug overdoses in ZIP code 15210, which includes Carrick High School and many of the households that it serves. That death toll ranked third among Allegheny County ZIP codes.

The epidemic has left staff members at the high school scrambling not just to educate students about the dangers of drug abuse to prevent them from heading down that path, but also to address their social and emotional needs after experiencing trauma related to the drug use of a friend or relative.

Carrick High School has added more social workers to its roster in recent years to help identify and work with students who need them the most, Ms. Washington said. There has been an uptick in the number of students referred to Mercy Behavioral Health for support services, and the hospital in turn has deployed more therapists to assist at the school.

A team of faculty members meets every two weeks to discuss concerning behavior by students - a change in class attendance or how they are dressed, for instance - and discuss whether they suspect an underlying problem and what can be done to help him or her.

"We're constantly teaching our teachers how to respond to those students," Ms. Washington said. "It's not something that just comes up in a classroom conversation or something, it's something that comes up after a relationship has been built."

Anecdotally, Pittsburgh Public Schools has had success with a new partnership with the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and CVS Cares, where pharmacy students make presentations to high school health or science classes about prescription drug abuse. …

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