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YUHSD staff undergoes drug impairment training

DITEP attendees for 2019 More than 30 Yuma Union High School District staff members came together on Sep. 16-17, 2019 for a drug impairment training at the YUHSD district office.

Longtime Tucson Police Officer Bill Honomichl, who has been with TPD for 20 years and is an expert in drug training and DUI investigation, conducted the two-day seminar, better known as Drug Impairment Training for Educational Professionals (DITEP).

“It’s drug education for education professionals,” Honomichl said. “We are trying to bridge the gap from saying, ‘A student showed up at school and I think they’re high’ to ‘We spent about an hour or so with the student and we believe them to be ingesting or using one of these seven drug categories based on my training and experience.’”

The training and experience includes learning various physical assessments from estimating pupil size to the basic walk-and-turn test; becoming educated on the drug category symptomology matrix, which includes the seven drug categories and their indicators; and policies and procedures for notifying parents.

The first day of the session consisted of bookwork and question and answer sessions, while several hours of day two was spent using the practical application of the physical tests, such as using a chart to examine colleagues’ pupils, and concluded with a written exam for all attendees. 

“We want to create the safest environment possible for our students in which student-learning can be the focus,” Cibola High School Assistant Principal Corey Semler said. “Although our academic and professional goals are geared towards preparing students for college, career, and positively impacting their community, our priority remains student safety and the well-being of our students. This class is another tool for helping make that possible.”

It is the third time Honomichl has presented the training for YUHSD, and it included attendees ranging from campus administrators to school nurses, security guards, School Resource Officers, and counselors. Overall, YUHSD has nearly 100 staff members who have undergone DITEP training over the past 3-plus years.

For Honomichl, the class is about getting everyone on the same page, working in cooperation.

“It’s knowing, let’s say, as a nurse, that I attended this class and I saw my assistant principal in this class,” Honomichl said. “That means that not only do I believe in this but they believe in it, too. So, to have bits and pieces of an entire school here, really shows that they want this information and this training, they want to be effective in using it and they want to have a safer environment for the kids they are working with.”

DITEP training is designed to provide education and tools for school administrators and nurses. It teaches a systematic approach for recognizing and evaluating individuals in the academic environment who are abusing and impaired by drugs, both legal and illegal, in order to provide early recognition and intervention. The methods employed in the training are based on medical and scientific principles. The information is supported by research conducted in both laboratory and field studies. By providing training to school officials and health care professionals, DITEP enables schools to employ an effective evaluation and detection program that will cause drug usage in schools to decline. Consequently, not only will the disruption caused by those abusing drugs be decreased, but the incidence of those individuals driving to and from schools while impaired by either alcohol or drugs will also be greatly reduced, making communities and schools safer place.

According to DECP.com, Arizona is one of three states, along with Kansas and New York, to each independently develop training to address the issue of combating drugs in the educational environment.

Eric Patten
epatten@yumaunion.org