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Averill Park Central School District announced a partnership with CDPHP and the Addictions Care Center of Albany (ACCA) on Thursday morning during a press conference.

With the partnership, ACCA brings its “An Apple a Day” program to all three Averill Park elementary schools. This year, the eight-week program will run as a pilot program for Kindergarten classes with the potential of including grades 1-4 in the future.

The program uses age-appropriate learning techniques to build self-esteem and help develop healthy habits in young students.

By partnering with area businesses and law enforcement agencies, Averill Park CSD is taking a proactive stance in forming the partnership, which can be a model for other school districts to use in the future. The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency that is affecting all communities, both big and small.

During the press conference, APCSD Superintendent Dr. James Franchini spoke, along with CDPHP President Dr. John Bennett, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, Tim and Kim Murdick of NOpiates, and ACCA Executive Director Keith Stack.

“We are excited to officially partner with CDPHP and the Addictions Care Center of Albany in order to implement this new program in our three elementary schools,” Dr. Franchini said. “Averill Park has a mission of meeting the needs of and creating opportunities for every student every day. In order to meet the ever-changing needs of our student body, we must be aware of what our students are facing in the real world. To that extent, this partnership aligns perfectly with our mission statement and we will continue to seek out ways to prevent future problems instead of reacting to them after, many times, it may be too late.”

Mr. Stack noted that if a person turns 20 years old without becoming addicted to drugs, the likelihood of that person abusing a substance is significantly reduced, making early prevention a powerful tool to combat opioid addiction.

Sheriff Apple stated that the only way out of the opioid epidemic that the country faces is by raising awareness and prevention.

“People have no idea the devastation of this disease,” he said.

The “An Apple a Day” program will not specifically talk about drug use or addiction at the Kindergarten level, but will focus on using journal work and stories to boost self-esteem and create lifelong healthy habits.

Averill Park CSD has been making an effort to battle against opioid use in recent years.

In the past, the District has worked in partnership with the Rensselaer County Department of Mental Health to bring a Student Assistance Counselor to the middle school and the high school, and set up a satellite office for their Mental Health Clinic in the middle school.

It also works closely with Kim and Tim Murdick, of NOpiates, on many different events throughout the year and will bring well-known substance use prevention speaker Chris Herren in to give a presentation in April.

As part of the District’s prevention plan, social emotional learning is a major initiative in Averill Park. In fact, the District made significant adjustments to schedules at the elementary, middle and high schools last year in an effort to address the growing social emotional needs of students.

In the elementary school, a time known as “Classroom Connections” provides teachers an opportunity to build relationships with their students and address areas such as character education and mental health. In the middle school, a time called “Morning Meeting” that focused on relationship building and character education was created. In the high school, staff created a block of time called Advisory, which provides students with a break in the middle of their day to relax and listen to music, shoot baskets in the gym, meet with a club, get extra help from a teacher, or numerous other opportunities to de-stress and connect with faculty, staff and classmates.

Read more about the partnership at ABC, WNYT and CDPHP.

dr franchini

press conference