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Standing up and making the play: Clay-Battelle to be a GameChanger pilot school in the fall

BLACKSVILLE — Are you going to stand in the field and pray the ball isn’t hit to you?

Or, are you going pray for the opposite — so you can become, well, a game-changer?

Those were the sports-infused queries Gov. Jim Justice posed to the student body of Clay-Battelle Middle/High School on Monday afternoon.

“Y’all are gonna have to stand up and make the play,” he said. “You’re the future.”

Justice, who has long coached youth sports teams in West Virginia, told the students that if they didn’t collectively watch and make better decisions in life, they could very well be on the losing end of the scoreboard — permanently.

With his faithful English bulldog, Babydog, in tow, the governor made a stop at the school in Blacksville to announce a new initiative.

Clay-Battelle is now a pilot school with GameChanger — the state and national substance misuse prevention and education program high schoolers.

Officially, it’s the “GameChanger Opioid Substance Misuse Prevention Education Program,” and if that’s a lot to pronounce, Joe Boczek said, that’s because it’s a lot to take in.

Boczek is a Morgantown businessman who founded GameChanger in 2017 — with a goal of putting the light of preventative education on the shadow of drug abuse in the Mountain State.

That’s because West Virginia has been consistently leading the nation in a statistic it doesn’t want to top.

For instance, the state in 2008 had the highest rate of per capita pill volume in the nation, as Dr. Katherine Keyes testified last week in West Virginia’s bench trial against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals and three other drug makers.

Keyes, the director of Columbia University’s Psychiatric Training Program, said the defendant companies flooded the state with pills, adding to the malaise.

West Virginia, she said, is “the epicenter of the opioid crisis in the U.S.”

Now it’s time to be a model the other way, both the governor and the GameChanger founder said.

By the time it’s all done, a total of 12 high schools across the state, including North Marion in neighboring Marion County and Bridgeport in Harrison, will offer the prevention classes starting in the fall.

Justice made a visit earlier in the day to Wheeling Park High School in the Northern Panhandle to announce its participation.

To round out the dozen, other schools from the Eastern Panhandle to the southern coal fields will also be named.

“We want to take in all the West Virginia demographic,” he said.

David Cottrell, meanwhile, said he’s anxious to get started on the demographics of Clay-Battelle, as GameChanger goes.

Older students counseling younger students is a signature piece of the program, which suits Clay-Battelle perfectly, the principal said. The school in western Monongalia houses students in grades 6 though 12.

“The younger ages, especially, are the impressionable ages,” he said.

“We’re uniquely positioned. We could make a difference.”

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