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Change the Game in West Virginia

We’ve all seen the impact illicit drugs have had on our state and region. Families have been devastated due to overdose deaths. Lives have been forever altered through the gripping addiction some of these substances have, particularly on young, developing minds.

This is a problem that needs tackled early, and several organizations have come together to help change the game locally when it comes to drugs.

With the financial assistance of Panhandle Cleaning & Restoration, and the work of Shadyside native Joe Boczek, executive director of the GameChanger program, students at Wheeling Park High School soon will work to make in difference when it comes to educating each other and also younger students in Ohio County on the dangers of drugs.

Gov. Jim Justice this week came to the high school to officially unveil the program, which will begin in the fall. As West Virginia’s “head coach,” Justice said he sees the realities of drug abuse on the state’s residents daily.

“West Virginia has been ravaged by this drug situation, off the chart,” Justice said. “And if we don’t get this right, we don’t have a chance. We don’t have a prayer.

“We all know it, but like it or not, drugs can cannibalize us. They can absolutely take our lives away. It doesn’t matter — Black or White, Democrat or Republican, rich or poor. They touch every single one of us, all of the time.”

GameChanger gives youngsters options, Justice said, noting students will have someone to talk to if they’re struggling over drug-related pressures.

The program has a three-year commitment, and Panhandle Cleaning & Restoration has agreed to cover the $38,200 expense. Owner Bob Contraguerro said his three sons — Bob Jr., Tom and Josh — brought to him the idea of supporting the GameChanger program.

“And I couldn’t think of anything better to support than keeping children off drugs,” Contraguerro said.

The drug epidemic is one of the greatest challenges of our age. It’s going to require a focused team effort to help youngsters understand there are better options than using drugs — particularly now, as the killer additive fentanyl has made its way into the region. Let’s hope this new program really can change the game for our children and provide them a brighter future.

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