WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV (WVNS) – Country music star Brad Paisley returned home to West Virginia to announce a new program to try to help keep teens safe from opioids and fentanyl.

Paisley teamed up with Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito to make a big announcement at the Greenbrier Resort on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.

They announced the Gamechanger initiative is set to take effect in West Virginia schools at the start of the 2022-23 school year. The Gamechanger program wants to reach West Virginia students early and teach them about the dangers of opioids, and fentanyl in particular.

Paisley described the opioid epidemic as a tsunami that hit West Virginia in the last ten years, and he added everyone in the state knows someone whose life was forever changed by opioids.

“You know when I moved away this wasn’t necessarily the issue that it is now. And most of it happened sort of after that and I’ve come home to almost a different state,” said Paisley.

In addition to devoting time during class to talk about the dangers of opioid use, each school will also hire a paid Gamechanger Coach to be a resource for students who have questions or concerns about drug abuse.

“It’s much heavier emphasis is on prevention, and I think that’s where we find ourselves really lacking,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R (WV).

“If it can help the kids and save the kids before they get to the point of no return, that’s what it’s all about,” added Sen. Joe Manchin, D (WV).

North Marion High School in Marion County is one of the twelve pilot schools to start a Gamechanger program next year. North Marion Principal Kristin DeVaul said her staff repeatedly asked her for a program like this for years, as well as any resources possible to help students caught in the grips of opioid addiction.

“Routinely every year, when I ask my staff ‘what do you need? What can I do for you?’ it is the number one need that they have. ‘Can you find us a resource to help our students? Can you find us an outlet to provide mental health to combat addiction?” said DeVaul.

DeVaul said she believes the Gamechanger initiative could be the answer her teachers want.

The Gamechanger initiative begins at the twelve pilot schools at the start of the next school year, but they plan to be in more than 600 schools by 2027.