Fairmont State University welcomed over 2,000 Marion County high school students to the Feaster Center on February 21 for an assembly with West Virginia GameChanger. The purpose of the assembly was to make Marion County students aware of the danger counterfeit prescription drugs present. Governor Jim Justice and West Virginia GameChanger partnered back in December to produce the anti-drug initiative. Governor Justice, who was named GameChanger’s “Head Coach”, was present at the assembly with his canine sidekick BabyDog to relay the importance of substance misuse prevention.
“This is really important stuff. There is a message here that can save a life, that can save a bunch of lives,” said Justice. “I hope kids walk away with more courage, to be able to say ‘no’ and to be able to turn away from the pressures that they go through. I hope we avoid a tragedy where we lose some of them.”
During the Tuesday morning assembly, GameChanger shared the short film “One Pill Can Kill”. The video focuses on the dangers of counterfeit prescriptions laced with fentanyl. The miniature documentary includes cameos of well-known West Virginians like country singer Brad Paisley, University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban, Governor Jim Justice, Marshall University Football Coach Charles Huff, and Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Caputo. “One Pill Can Kill” aims to educate students about the dangers of fake prescription pills and create peer discussion.
“Students, educators, faculty and staff of Marion County West Virginia, it is absolutely my pleasure to welcome you here today to view this video,” Fairmont State University Interim President Dianna Phillips said. “There were a lot of heavy messages in that video. One of our primary concerns is your wellness and your future.”
“One Pill Can Kill” explored how the opioid epidemic has affected communities state-wide. Several students from across the state were included in a peer discussion during the video, sharing their thoughts on drug use and how it has personally affected their lives. Officers from the Marion County Sheriff's Office also appeared in the video and showcased how fentanyl-laced drugs have impacted Marion County.
“It is vital for us as a district because I can’t think of very many students and adults in the Feaster Center today who have not been impacted by this,” said Marion County Superintendent Donna Heston. “North Marion High School is one of twelve pilots for GameChanger across the state. We are thankful that they were chosen to be one of those pilots, and one of the things that is so powerful about this initiative is it’s students mentoring students with resources and support provided.”
GameChanger is a Student-Powered Substance Misuse Prevention Movement connecting West Virginia students and the educators who care about them with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to build school environments that prevent student opioid and other drug use before it starts.
“First and foremost, GameChanger needs to thank President Phillips and her entire staff whose help on this event made it all possible. In addition, I would like to thank Superintendent Heston for being such a strong advocate for GameChanger,” said Executive Director of Gamechanger Joe Boczek. “The lives of our young people and for that matter the lives of everyone are being threatened by counterfeit drugs laced with fentanyl and hopefully the movie One Kill Can Kill can help alleviate this deadly crisis.”
GameChanger works directly with schools to implement, monitor and sustain the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s student peer leadership programs, found by research to help children make healthy choices about alcohol, opioids, and all other drugs. As a youth-led prevention, positive development and community enhancement initiative,GameChanger programming is designed to educate, support and empower young West Virginians to live healthy, drug free lifestyles while preparing them to be the leaders of tomorrow.
“The event today was spectacular. Fairmont State has been wonderful in participating and offering a facility for these students. It’s a community that has come together and is working together. We are proud of Marion County because they do these types of things,” said GameChanger Board Chair Larry Puccio. “GameChanger is making a difference by touching thousands of students across the state and letting them know that something as small as taking a pill can end your life and destroy your family. We are proud of everyone who participated today but we are the proudest of our students who sat and listened to our message.”
To learn more about West Virginia GameChanger visit gamechangerusa.org.