The opioid abuse crisis in New York City claims an increasing number of lives each year and the situation has become more urgent with the proliferation of synthetic opioids. The City has taken several steps to address the problem, despite ongoing national structures and systems contributing to the cycle of addiction and abuse. Reforming the city’s drug education to be more inclusive will help the next generation to make informed choices.

The Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP) tackles the opioid epidemic not only through the prosecution of traffickers to reduce the illegal supply of narcotics but also through innovative approaches to reducing the demand for drugs. Building on prior work done in collaboration with the SNP and the District Attorney’s Offices for both Staten Island and the Bronx, this Columbia Capstone team evaluated preventive strategies that can be employed in NYC's grade 6-12 education to build awareness of the opioid epidemic.

They examined the potential benefit and feasibility of implementing holistic curriculum supplements on opioids in grade 6-12 curriculum. The analysis also drawn from secondary research of successful drug education curriculums, mental health literature and public health campaigns. It also included findings from a multi-stakeholder design workshop the team hosted, interviews with major stakeholders, and focus groups conducted in NYC's public schools.

The final report included comprehensive research, critical findings and a path forward. Major themes included: addressing mental health needs, broad-based curriculum integration, scenario-based teaching, parental involvement, and the development of messaging.