LePage Lobbies Schools to Fund Health Teacher to Combat Drugs

City Councilor Colin F. LePage.

City Councilor Colin F. LePage pleaded with the Haverhill School Committee last night to help address the city’s heroin epidemic by adding a health instructor at the middle school level.

LePage provided documents showing an excess of $120,478 was originally allocated to the city’s parking lighting account during this year’s budget process. While the council cannot, under the Education Reform law, tell the school committee how to spend its money, the council voted to move the money to the school’s special education emergency reserve fund at the end of June. He urged using the money to hire an additional middle school health teacher, supporting a May recommendation of the Haverhill Overdose Prevention and Education (HOPE) task force.

“Why can’t we do a little prevention? Why are we waiting for something to happen? Why can’t we put more education and help them so they can not fall into trying to be cured and stopped after they’ve run into problems,” LePage asked.

Quoting the Governor’s Opioid Working Group, LePage said, 74 percent of individuals with a substance use disorder began substance abuse at the age of 17 or younger, 10.2 percent initiated use at the age of 11 or younger. Further, he said, the group has found parents are not discussing drugs with their middle school-aged children even as abuse begins at that age. He noted the school department’s own strategic plan calls for re-instituting the middle school health education program.

LePage reminded school committee members that councilors recommended the hiring during the June 9 discussion of the school budget and reiterated their wishes during the June 16 budget meeting. He said he hoped the school committee would immediately advertise the new position so an employee can be in place before classes resume next month.

“I’m just frustrated that the communication wasn’t there, and when I was at the (school committee) meeting on June 25, it became obvious to me that that information wasn’t in front of you,” LePage said. He alluded to the recent death of his own son, Christopher, as adding to his emotional plea.

Council Intended Money to be Used to Hire Teacher

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini during a recent Open Mike Show.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini during a recent Open Mike Show.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he does not believe using the school department’s stabilization fund is the correct means of paying for the teacher, but he agrees one should be added. LePage said the $100,000 wasn’t actually intended for the reserve account, but rather a transfer to support the council’s desire to add a health instructor. City Council President John Michitson confirmed the council “explicitly” earmarked the $100,000 to hire a health instructor. Prompted by LePage, the mayor acknowledged, the city has received a federal Byrne grant to address drug addiction issues.

School Committee President Scott W. Wood Jr. said the city may need more than one extra teacher, but the budget is tight. He noted the city recently lost a union grievance and will need extra money to pay that claim.

Fiorentini suggested he work with Superintendent James F. Scully and return in August with a plan for hiring the additional teacher. Scully added he is already writing the job description.

“This is probably, right now, the most serious social issue in the city of Haverhill and, in fact, perhaps in the last decade. So, we all need to work together collectively to put together a plan to address this issue,” said Committeeman Joseph J. Bevilacqua.

At the request of Committeewoman Susan Danhey, Scully said he will advertise the position even while the funding issue is being discussed.

2 thoughts on “LePage Lobbies Schools to Fund Health Teacher to Combat Drugs

  1. “Why can’t we do a little prevention?” –

    Like what?

    The federal government won’t intervene, the borders are wide open. The U.S. and State Attorney General’s won’t intervene, even when banks launder drug cartel monies. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts doesn’t care as it is a sanctuary state, where it is “offensive” to stop or detain anyone that may be illegal or carrying or dealing drugs. Massachusetts is also home to some of the largest pharmaceutical companies on the planet, and they donate extremely generously to CONgress Members, Ed “from Maryland” Markey is the number three (3) top recipient of said donations from “Big Pharma”. Poppy production is coming off a record year as far as cultivation to meet global, and especially American, insatiable demand to use drugs.

    Intervention and “The War on Drugs” keeps law enforcement personnel employed, as well as some ivory tower academics employed pretending to say something competent or useful. The reality is, it is a huge waste of monies, a free People will use drugs no matter what, opiates, alcohol, whatever, it cannot be stopped – see Prohibition. The hypocrisy displayed in light of reality is a true cognitive dissonance, but politicians at all levels have a need to “appear” to be doing something, but in this case, there is no serious concerns. If there were, the rule of law would be enforced, a Free People would actually be free, and billions of taxpayer monies would no longer be wasted on an issue that is impossible to combat.

  2. What does City Councilor LePage envision a Health Teacher could and would do to combat the drug problem in the Haverhill schools? Would we be doing this just to prove we are doing SOMETHING to help, or is there a purpose to all of this.