Substance use prevention program goes online to reach students

Micah Meline, a presenter with Know the Truth, talks to students over video about his past struggles with substance use. (Submitted photo)

During the past 13 years, the substance use prevention program Know the Truth has visited thousands of high and middle schools across the state to present personal stories told by young adults who have struggled with addiction.

With the pandemic forcing schools to close, leaders from the program have had to come up with new ways to reach students. The team of young presenters, who graduated from recovery programs through Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, have pivoted to create a virtual option that many local school districts are adopting.

Using recorded presentations and live video conferencing, Know the Truth has been able to continue sharing personal stories and information on the dangers of drugs, alcohol and vaping.

According to organization leaders, the peer-to-peer approach is meant to help the message resonate with students.

“[The presenters] are all really passionate about using their past to help. … It can be challenging reliving your choices and experiences that were tough in your life, but when they know that it’s for the greater good and that it’s really helping, it really inspires them,” said Tracee Anderson, director of prevention and community engagement for Know the Truth.

And while it’s still most impactful when students can hear from presenters live and in-person, Anderson said one plus in the online approach is that the program has been able to reach a greater number of schools.

“Geography isn’t a factor at all right now. We’ve definitely increased our outreach with students,” Anderson said. “And we’re excited because students are able to watch our video with their parents.”

Anderson said it’s critical that middle school and high school students learn about substance use and the misconceptions about them since 90% of adults who struggle with substance use started smoking, drinking or using illicit substances before the age of 18.

“We don’t come here to tell you that if you decide to smoke weed or drink alcohol that eventually you’ll become addicted to heroin or meth or that any of the things that happened to us will happen to you. We come here to share our stories because we never imagined that these consequences would happen to us,” said Micah Meline, a presenter for the program.

Middle school students in the Wayzata School District were recently sent a video that featured Meline talking about his past struggles with substance use and how he’s worked to overcome them.

Other schools that have recently been or will soon be part of the virtual programming include St. Louis Park, Eden Prairie and Hopkins high schools and Eden Prairie Central Middle School.

Know the Truth also offers a hotline at 612-440-3967 for students who’d like to speak to a team member to get more information or ask questions anonymously.

For more information, including resources for parents and educators, visit knowthetruthmn.org.

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