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Episode 27: Safety First: Drug Education 101 with Sasha Simon

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welcome to drugs and stuff a podcast from the drug policy alliance. I'm I'm Gabriel in the IRS. Your host for this episode which will be a short but sweet one and we are here with Sasha Simon. My colleague she is the safety. First Program Manager Manager and also has previously worked as a health educator so some might know the name safety. I if you've listened to our podcast before we've had a few episodes it's about it but for those who don't know what it is. Sasha could you give a brief overview absolutely so safety I is the drug policy alliances says new Drug Education Curriculum. That space in arm reduction. It's designed to be taught in ninth and Tenth Grade Health Classes by health teacher. And it's been in years in the making. I think a lot of people know that safety. I I started with the booklet. Them Marsha Rosenbaum produced that parents and adults in general have been eating up and we wanted to think of a way to make that effort sustainable and so the idea came to create a curriculum that could be taught with staff that already exist in those schools and we buffer be a great way to make harm reduction base drag educational role thing for teenagers. Oh yeah absolutely absolutely and it's for those of you who haven't seen the curriculum yet. You should definitely go to our website. It's available for free at Drug Policy Dot Org slash safety first so creating a whole school curriculum is a whole different animal than writing a research based booklet. Can you tell me a little bit especially from your perspective as a health educator like what is involved in that. Why is this especially exciting with a great question. And and there's two parts to that firstly you haven't seen many. If any harm reduction based drug education curricula that have been tested that have been evaluated so we didn't have a whole lot of data that go off on to really be able to build the case for this thing so in developing it and piloting it in. New York your can two thousand eighteen and then in San Francisco and spring of two thousand nineteen. We now have a body of data to back this up. So students took pre test and post those tasks than we did. Focus groups and interviews both before and after they received the curriculum so now we have all this great data back it out which I think is great for us but it's also great for the field and that's a lot of work. It took a whole lot of work to get that done. We had to choose the correct schools in New York. We chose a school that match national diversity statistics just in case. We never got the pilot again but we do. and which was great. Because in San Francisco chose five different schools. Each school well had a different personality. So did he teacher and it really allowed us to see how the curriculum played out in these different settings and so we were really able to modify the curriculum for classroom use based on the real feedback that we got milk teachers. That's so exciting and also considering you know that. DPA does a lot of other work not just drug education based work. It's I think are really incredible accomplishment. So why do you think it's important for young people not not only to learn the drug facts and things that they'll be presented in this curriculum and also of course all of the harm reduction based based education that they're getting but why is it important for them to know about drug policy which is obviously our organizational focus. That's another great question question and I think a lot of times. People don't realize the drug policy affects young people right even if there aren't any drugs that'll are illegal for them to use their still school drug policies they're still Job Work Policies so there are already governed by policies and they can already be adversely impacted by them in real time and so in the curriculum we talk a bit about zero tolerance then how that impacts young people and their ability to be engaged in their school culture or their ability to have opportunities opportunities in the future based on how badly they may be reprimanded for any drug use or possession and they need to know that there's academic harms associational harms arms. A lot of times if kids expelled for having possession or for using drugs on campus. You've been been isolated from your friends. You've been isolated deleted from your support group. So students were given the opportunity with safety first to really dig into that and see. What is our drug policy. Look like and that. Is that actually serving me. Is that actually serving my friends. And then we also engage them in harm reduction base drug policy in health-based policies. They can reconsider what a school drug policy can actually look like. That's more restorative to the school community versus being isolating. That's so amazing. It's really refreshing. Also because when I was growing up I had the dare bottle which is abstinence. Based it's taught by a police officer so it's very much coming from that those often misguided policies and you see that playing out in even how the drug education quote unquote is being presented in the classroom. Well there's a lot of things around drug education that's a little misguided. I mean the idea of having having a police officer teach. You was what I think should be a help. Base course is is problematic in itself. I was a dare baby too and I remember making that. Just just say no pledge when I was ten years old but in addition to that in addition to just educating young people when they're in high school another thing to think about is the workforce course. That's another purpose of education to and so when we've been adhering to prohibition and this abstinence only messaging we haven't been adequately training raining. Our healthcare workforce also embrace the harm reduction approach. We haven't been training health educators adequately to embrace this approach. It wasn't until I came to. DPA PA where. I really confronted my own bias as a health educator and my own limitations based on what had been fed to me so it it. It's a bigger deal than just high school. It's also training the workforce to be able to respond to implement the policies that work best so amazing and were incredibly excited about this curriculum. Again you can find it for free on our website at drug policy dot org slash safety first. I and it's been a long time since I've been so jazzed about projects I've worked on and I and I suspect. Sasha feels the same because as she mentioned you know it's not just the schools it has this ripple effect across all of society really so thanks again. Sasha Jeff and For those of you who are interested in learning more again you can go to our website or you can check out the previous podcast. We've had about safety. I stay tuned for future future longer episodes. That are digging a little more into the curriculum. All right that's about it for today. Thanks for joining us than hope you tune in again soon drugs and stuff is brought to you by the drug policy alliance if you like what. You hear on the podcast. Those favorite rate the show on I tunes gave it five stars. Ns Review also. We'd love to hear from you. tweeted us at drugs and stuff. DEEPA use the Hashtag drugs and stuff and check out our website drug policy dot org to see the other work. We do sound for our emails and donate special. Thanks to our producer Katherine Heller and to the hardworking staff of the Drug Policy Alliance for all of their work. Thanks for listening.

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