City, Wood County Schools Partner for GameChanger Initiative

The City of Parkersburg, in collaboration with Wood County Schools, is taking a proactive stance in combating substance misuse among its youth population by partnering with the innovative GameChanger program. This cutting-edge, evidence-based program aims to create a safer and healthier environment for West Virginia students, preventing drug use before it starts.

The GameChanger program, established in 2018, focuses on student-powered substance misuse prevention, connecting students and educators with the renowned Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Its mission is to build school environments that deter student opioid and drug use before it even begins. By implementing peer leadership programs based on extensive research, GameChanger empowers students to make informed and healthy choices about alcohol, opioids, and other drugs.

Mayor Tom Joyce expressed his enthusiasm for the program, stating, "Prevention is the ultimate long-term solution to the drug crisis in WV and Parkersburg. I am pleased to be afforded the opportunity for Parkersburg to fund this innovative, student-driven comprehensive approach. I applaud the Wood County Board of Education & Superintendent Willis for their consideration and allowing us to be a partner in this initiative."

Three Wood County schools have been selected to participate in the GameChanger program: Jefferson Elementary Center, Van Devender Middle School, and Parkersburg High School. These schools were chosen after their inclusion in the state's Communities in Schools initiative, emphasizing the importance of prevention and promoting healthy lifestyles among students.

Superintendent Christie Willis emphasized the significance of this initiative, stating, "We're trying to prevent dropouts. We're trying to promote healthy lifestyles. By empowering our students and offering them support through the GameChanger program, we hope to prepare them for a productive and drug-free future."

The City of Parkersburg is requesting Council approval for a $90,000 allocation to fund the participation of these three schools in the West Virginia GameChanger program. Each school requires $30,000 to cover the cost of participation.

The GameChanger program takes a cutting-edge, evidence-based approach and is the first of its kind in the nation. Developed through a collaborative agreement between WV GameChanger and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, it involves the implementation of opioid and substance misuse prevention education curriculum in schools across the state.

Mayor Joyce stressed the importance of early intervention and positive connections, "Students who work with and are connected to prevention solutions are 90% more likely to make healthy choices."

Looking ahead, WV GameChanger intends to expand its Opioid and Substance Misuse Prevention Education Program to all West Virginia elementary, middle, and high schools by the fall of 2027.

For more information about the GameChanger program and its mission, visit