Press Release

American Federation of Teachers Launches E-Learning Tool to Help Combat Opioid Crisis

Resources Offered to Health, Education Professionals

For Release: 

Friday, January 18, 2019


Oriana Korin

WASHINGTON—In response to the continued and widespread opioid abuse crisis in communities throughout the United States, the AFT has launched a learning program on opioid use disorder for educators, nurses, social workers and school support personnel. The program, titled “Combatting the Opioid Crisis: AFT Responds,” is now available on the union’s e-learning platform, and can be accessed at The program aims to provide education and healthcare professionals with critical tools and resources to support patients, students and families affected by the opioid crisis, and will be distributed widely to AFT members and their networks. It launches as a new report from the National Safety Council out this week indicates that for the first time in history, Americans are more likely to die from opioid overdoses than car crashes.

The course includes video-based content created by faculty and staff experts at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and addresses widely recognized training and information gaps AFT members may encounter when dealing with the realities of treating and counseling people about the challenges of opioid use and addiction. It also aims to streamline and simplify the resources available to help these professionals navigate the complex world of providing information on treatment.

“Opioid addiction is a crisis of epidemic proportions. Amidst the horrible reality that Americans are more likely to die from opioid overdoses than car accidents, education is a key first step in making sure our communities have the information they need to treat and prevent addiction and overdose,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member AFT. “What better than for the AFT, a union of educators and school staff, nurses, physicians and social service workers, to undertake this job to educate; to sound the alarm on this public health crisis and try to play a role in the solution? Our members witness the real costs of this epidemic to families, to our healthcare system, and to our community and educational institutions daily.

"We hope this platform will offer those on the front lines important resources to help fight back against the causes of opioid abuse, including tools to recognize chemical dependence, administer overdose response, and a guide to advocate for funding and treatment so that patients get the care they need."

This comprehensive offering also includes access to two additional e-learning courses developed by Harvard Medical School—OpioidX (HMS OpioidX), a seven-hour general-audience opioid education certificate course, and OUDEP (HMS OUD CME Course) a 24-hour, National Institute on Drug Abuse- funded opioid and substance abuse curriculum for health professionals, which is eligible for CME, or continuing medical education credit. The AFT also provides a set of resources for educators and health professionals, as well as information regarding in-person training sessions available to AFT members and community partners.

Catherine Finn, deputy editor at Harvard Health Publications, the media and publishing division of HMS, said, “As I’ve traveled the country attending conferences about opioid use and addiction, I have learned that the unifying mission among folks in medicine, government and grass-roots coalitions is to reduce the stigma of addiction and educate to prevent overdose. Harvard Medical School’s OpioidX course content will help the AFT provide actionable, easy-to-understand takeaways that can save lives.”

AFT members have been actively seeking and creating solutions to address this crisis for years, lobbying for state and national policies that would expand access and funding for effective treatment, and that would press for more accountability for pharmaceutical companies around their strong marketing practices of opioids. The AFT will continue to provide its support to members focused on these efforts wherever possible.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.