"Game changer" campaign includes WVU, Marshall raising awareness for opioid prevention

PARKERSBURG, W. Va. (WTAP) - The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc for years now, affecting every level of our West Virginia's population, even the youth.

The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission announced a collaborative effort between big-name universities like West Virginia and Marshall Universities and the state’s department of education with corporate sponsor MVB Bank on an opioid awareness summit later this year.

"What we bring to the table is access to all of our kids," WVSSAC executive director Bernie Dolan said, "and being able to get the resources to the kids and to the schools."

"We need to turn despair into opportunity and that is what this initiative is about," WVU president Dr. E Gordan Gee said.

With presidents of Marshall and WVU in attendance, the two schools will play host to a two-day summit on September 17 and 18 that will bring together over 100,000 middle and elementary students across the state to learn about prevention and treatment resources for the opioid epidemic.

"We have to help our young people survive it, get through it," Marshall Athletics Director Mike Hamrick said, "either prevent them from getting involved with them, educate them why they shouldn’t be involved."

All partners involved agree this ambitious, vast partnership is vital to solving this problem for the next generation.

“it’s going to take a tremendous effort," said Dr. Jerome Gilbert, president of Marshall University, "and lots of different programs and this is a very critical part of that array of programs we’re going to need to solve the problem.”

Organizers are starting a campaign targeting the youth called "Be a Game Changer" and it will allow students to get creatively involved in ending this epidemic.