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Broadcast to showcase Huntington’s drug stories, solutions

By BISHOP NASH

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Rarely has the national media’s arrival in Huntington signaled that the once-proclaimed “overdose capital of America” was about to be cast in a positive light.

But when Discovery Education goes live from Pullman Square on Wednesday, Oct. 25, with thousands of school-age children tuned in for a “virtual field trip” of the city, the bitterness driven by the opioid epidemic will take a back seat to Huntington’s positive and innovative solutions to fight from under it.

“Our hope is that students can see their own story and their own town in Huntington’s story,” said Lauren DeNu, program director for Discovery Education, as crews set up and rehearsed Tuesday. “The idea is not to say ‘This is the worst of the worst’; it’s ‘This is a town with incredible people with an incredible back story; this is a city just like everywhere else.’ So we want kids to see their town is just like this one and to be inspired by the things that are happening here.”

The broadcast will be the second in Discovery Education’s “Operation Prevention” series, which began in 2016 in partnership with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to take a fact-centered approach to teaching substance-abuse prevention in schools. Unlike the past “scared straight” methods, “Operation Prevention” provides students facts about opioids so students can understand what exactly the drugs do to their bodies.

“We want to get to these kids before they make those bad decisions,” said Tim White, regional prevention coordinator for the Prestera Center, who helped orchestrate the broadcast’s local connections. “We want to talk to the kids and give them hope.”

Last year’s live broadcast of the annual series focused on the science of addiction, with doctors and health professions demonstrating the impact of drug use on the brain and body. DeNu said a desire to step away from a textbook teaching of addiction to exploring real-life stories drew Discovery Education to Huntington for this year’s show.

“We knew that Huntington is basically ground zero for this opioid epidemic, so we wanted to come and tell the story of not only of how the city has been negatively impacted, but also the story of the amazing people and initiatives, and the way the community has come together to improve Huntington for the future,” DeNu said.

Aside from being the hardest hit or the hardest working to undo the damage, DeNu said Huntington is a perfect example of a community banding together under hardship.

“You all care about your town so much,” said DeNu, who has spent time in Huntington since September filming clips and stories for Wednesday’s live show. “The moment I started having conversations with people, it was so clear that you all care so much about your community.”

While geared toward schoolchildren, “Operation Prevention’s” live broadcast from Huntington is open to public viewing online at www.operationprevention.com/virtual-field-trip. The 45-minute online stream at 1 p.m. Wednesday will be broadcast live from Pullman Square.

The show will be archived on “Operation Prevention’s” website for viewing following the show’s conclusion.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter at @BishopNash.

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