Brookings School District addressing increase in overdoses among students

Local News

BROOKINGS, SD (KELO) — The Brookings School District is placing a renewed focus on mental health awareness following a recent increase in overdoses among its students.

The district has reported four overdoses involving medications within a span of just over one week. The students who overdosed are recovering. District leaders are calling on the entire community to step-up and help students who may be struggling.

The overdoses are a troubling number to members of the Brookings School Board, who discussed the topic during their meeting this month.

“We have recognized within an eight-day period, we’ve seen four instances of a student overdose within our district, and that number breaks me,” Brookings School Board President Mellissa Heermann said.

District leaders aren’t calling the jump in overdoses a crisis, but rather, they reflect a changing culture, where overwhelmed students aren’t engaging in school life.

“We want to lead the culture change rather than ride it. It’s going to happen regardless of whether we’ve got the reins or not,” Brookings High School Principal Paul von Fischer said.

School officials say the overdoses may be the result of increasing mental health issues among students as well as ongoing uncertainty over the pandemic.

“Last year was such a challenging year and I think some of the repercussions are due to the fact that all of us, no matter who we were, where we were, what we were doing, we felt alone many times. We felt troubled about what was happening in the world and so, all of those things contribute to mental health anxiety issues that just don’t go away overnight,” Brookings School Board member Debra DeBates said.

School leaders say it’s important for the district to further strengthen its ties to mental health experts, parents, mentoring programs and law enforcement to ensure that kids get the help they need.

“I think this is a call to our community, this is a call for help, this is a call for parents, this is a moment of truth,” Heermann said.

We reached out to the school district for comments today, but we were told the district is not ready to talk yet.

Brookings Health System has posted information on how to safeguard the medications in your home so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

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