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Students affected by opioid epidemic have support system at school

LAPORTE, Ind. -- She's been an educator for over two decades, and yet, she's never seen anything like this.

Christine Rosenbaum noticed the change in LaPorte High School students, right when the opioid epidemic hit LaPorte County. 

Now, she's doing whatever she can to help.

"Well over 50% of our student population is probably dealing with a substance abuse problem themselves, or someone in the household," says Rosenbaum, the Slicers Support Services coordinator. 

It's a number she still can't wrap her head around, despite seeing it everyday.

"We saw that there was a growing problem with drugs in our community," she explains. "I noticed attendance changing, I noticed students' grades going down. I noticed kids coming to school without basic needs, like a winter coat, because money was being used on drugs."

Rosenbaum knew something had to be done, and soon. 

"I've heard, 'I've had to grow up so quickly, I've had to be the adult in the family. I've had to cook and clean," she says. "They're having to take on all these extra duties at home, because of a parent being absent or unavailable because of their substance use."

The next generation, she says, is becoming the forgotten generation.

Rosenbaum believes the focus usually is on the drug user, and says staff at the high school, try to zero in on the students who are impacted. 

While her door is always open for students to talk and get some help, Rosenbaum says her support groups seem to make the most impact.

"We have a program called Affected Others...students can talk to other students who are going through the same things," she explains. "It really helps our students, knowing that they have a support system here at school for those days that they're really struggling."

But Rosenbaum also has another support group. A grief group. 

She's finding more students are taking advantage of dealing with their grief, especially now. 

"Because of all of the substance abuse issues going on, we have parents who are dying from drug overdoses," she says.

That's a lot for high school students to deal with.

And Rosenbaum knows, a chaotic home life, creates chaos in the classroom.

"They walk into school and the last thing they're thinking of is a test in English. They need to know someone is here for them," she says. 

Rosenbaum is there for them. They know it.

But she also knows, it takes a village to raise the future.

"Until we do something about this drug problem, it's not going to change for our children," she says. 

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