By Autumn Shelton, WV Press News Sharing
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – The GameChanger goal is to end West Virginia’s substance abuse epidemic one child at a time. Admittedly, this is a monumental task, but Joe Boczek knows many are rising to the challenge with help from state leadership, and through the non-profit organization GameChanger, where he serves as executive director.
In support of those efforts, the Greenbrier Resort once again welcomed guests for the GameChanger Golf Classic – a two day event designed to raise money for substance abuse education programs that are made available to every school in the state.
The event kicked off on Wednesday with a press conference featuring country music superstar Brad Paisley and U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.
Paisley, who is a West Virginia native, shared his thoughts on GameChanger and the substance abuse epidemic.
“The solution is not to sit around wondering what to do,” Paisley began. “I am so impressed by what you guys have been able to put together and I am glad to help launch this.”
He said when he was asked to be the keynote speaker for the event, his immediate answer was yes.
“I am pleased to be a part of what I think is going to be something that impacts this state–that unfortunately leads America in overdose deaths. We have got to change that first and foremost. That is what we are going to try to do.”
Manchin said, “What GameChanger is doing is making us aware of something that’s in front of us every day. We see children all over this country, but mostly in West Virginia where we have been affected more than any other state. If a kid is in a situation where they see their family devastated to the point where they don’t have any path in life, they give up because they don’t think anybody cares.”
In February 2021, GameChanger announced its partnership with the world-renowned Hazelden-Betty Ford Foundation – a partnership which empowers the organization to provide additional resources and educational-opportunities to county school-systems.
On January 19 of this year, Harrison County became the first school-system to capitalize on those resources by piloting GameChanger’s “Innovative Prevention Education Program.”
“There are no political boundaries when you look at children in distress, when you look at opioid misuse and abuse. There are no Republican or Democrat solutions. These are American solutions,” Capito noted. “What I think is really exciting about GameChanger, it’s trying to meet the problem before it occurs. It’s on the prevention side. It’s in the schools. As young as those children are, they are absorbing every single day what you are telling them, and we have to figure out a way on the prevention side to be able to stop this before it even starts.”
According to Boczek, GameChanger currently has 12 pilot schools, with plans to have 681 schools in the program by 2027.
Kristin DeVaul, principal of North Marion High School in Marion County, one of the 12 pilot schools, was in attendance at the event. She said that the program will be implemented at her school in the fall.
“For the last probably three or four years, there has been an outcry where people say please give us resources to help our kids. When you think of changing the game for a kid, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the one using. Our kids need support from the school to deal with life when it throws opioid addiction or drug use at them. I just didn’t have the resources to give them. I tried, but nothing existed. Then, I heard about GameChanger.”
She said she immediately reached out to Boczek, who offered her all the assistance she needed to get started.
“We are excited and I am confident that this is the resource we need to finally be able to help our kids.”
For more information, regarding GameChanger’s Innovative Prevention Education Program, or the Hazelden-Betty Ford Foundation, visit gamechangerusa.org.