The opioid epidemic that has struck far and wide across America has stretched its tentacles into high school sports, as has a general rise among drugs of abuse. In fact, the increase has been marked enough, at least anecdotally, that Long Island has moved to formally train its coaches to handle athletes struggling with addiction to non-performance enhancing drugs.
As reported by the East Hampton Star, a new program across Suffolk County will teach athletic coaches and trainers to identify student athletes using addictive drugs and how to intervene with those prospective students. The brief also extends to painkilling drugs diagnosed for athletes recovering from injuries, something which the Suffolk County Executive’s Office said coaches and trainers would be ideally situated to identify.
Per the Star, the new program started as a pilot in three school districts in 2018, with more than 60 varsity and junior varsity coaches already trained in the 75-minute curriculum, which was developed by by Stony Brook University’s Center for Prevention and Outreach in conjunction with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and parent, coach and civic groups.
The new program is being funded with by Suffolk County’s operating budget to avoid any conflict with other athletic or educational funds, a move that Suffolk County majority leader Kara Hahn said may be the best foray for intervention should an athlete be dealing with devastating addiction on his or her own.
“For many athletes, their relationship with a coach is based on respect and trust and, in many cases, it may be the most influential relationship they have with an adult,” Hahn told the Star. “This unique place in a player’s life provides the coach with an unparalleled opportunity to understand the circumstances the athlete is facing and provide meaningful guidance and support.”