PIAA campaign warns student-athletes about losing teammates to addiction

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Across the country, opioids are ejecting student-athletes. 

“We have student-athletes — 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds getting injured that are being prescribed medication and through those prescriptions. They’re becoming addicted,” said David Bitting, Lower Dauphin School District director of athletics. 

With grant money from the state attorney general’s office, the PIAA is fighting the crisis through a new ad campaign urging students to speak up. 

It’s harsh, but it’s reality. 

“The purpose behind the poster, as you can see, is to take away one of their teammates and kind of give them the visual of this could happen. It’s here, it’s almost, unfortunately, in every town, every area of the state,” said Melissa Mertz, associate executive director of the PIAA. 

The posters were given to every PIAA school in Pennsylvania and appeared on the back of the programs at the girls’ state basketball championships in Hershey.

“Twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have even begun to think about, ‘yeah, we’re gonna design a poster because we have kids that are taking pain meds that are turning into taking heroin,'” Mertz said. 

Bitting said opioids aren’t a huge problem in his district — yet.  

“Until we can reduce the amount of prescriptions that are being handed out to 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds, we’re not going to resolve this issue,” Bitting said. 

Bitting said an ad campaign and coaches are a good start, but parents also need to get in the game. 

“It also falls back into the families to make sure that they’re taking all the measures to lock up the prescriptions, to not make medication as available to the kids,” Bitting said. 

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