NSU Counseling Center Approved for Opioid Awareness Grant

Students on Northern State University campus green.

ABERDEEN, S.D.  The NSU Counseling Center received a grant to aid in opioid misuse prevention from the Department of Social Service’s Division of Behavioral Health.

The $20,000 grant will help the NSU Counseling Center provide Generation Rx University Opioid Prevention and Education training to the students of Northern, as well as support social media and community campaigning to spread awareness.

The Counseling Center began their research to apply for the grant last year by completing dozens of interviews in the community and campus, including parents, teachers, coaches on campus, medical providers and etcetera.

“We wanted to take a look at what the community knew about prescription drug misuse,” said Counseling Center Program Manager Erin Olson, “We realized that the community had little to no knowledge on the topic. It helped us discover what would be beneficial for the community to learn about, as well as how we could help spread awareness.”

Further social norms surveys completed by students provided further data on whether students felt opioid misuse was wrong and whether they have misused opioids. This data helped guide them on what students needed to be educated on.

The Counseling Center applied for the Generation Rx grant in fall of 2019, and received said grant in early January 2020. The mission of Generation Rx is to educate people of all ages about the potential dangers of misusing prescription medications and enhance medication safety amongst people of all ages.

The grant will be used to fund the Counseling Center’s Peer to Peer training, where Northern students will be trained on meeting with their peers in order to educate and spread awareness on prescription drug misuse. Students interested in volunteering for this training should contact Erin Olson.

The project will also bring Dr. Melanie Weiss to campus in April 2020 to share her own story. 

Originally from Watertown, SD, Weiss received her B.A. from Northern and went on to obtain her Ph.D. in Optometry in 1998. She opened Weiss Eyecare Clinic in 2003 and is currently in her 20th year of practice. After various surgeries between 2007-10, Weiss developed an opiate addiction, lost her DEA license, and was arrested in 2016. Now, Weiss is educating students and the public on opiate addiction and recovery through her “Vision of Hope” speaking campaign.

“We feel Dr. Weiss’ experience can help our community understand that opiate addiction can happen to anyone,” said Olson. “Even highly successful people with education and businesses–people that most believe it could never happen to.”

The Counseling Center will be working to educate all of the community, but will be giving special focus to athletes–who are at higher risk for developing an opiate addiction due to frequent injuries and subsequent surgeries.

“We are very pleased with the opportunity to enhance prevention efforts to better serve and educate our students in making healthy choices,” said Heather Aldentaler, NSU Counseling Center Director.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $45 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.