MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A West Virginia city is teaming up with police, schools, prosecutors, and community and faith-based groups to address drug abuse among at-risk children in what officials are calling a “first-of-its-kind” approach.

The Martinsburg Police Department and Berkeley County Schools announced The Martinsburg Initiative at Winchester Avenue Elementary School on Monday, a news release said.

The project will target at-risk children and troubled families, with a specific focus on opiate and heroin prevention, officials said. They heralded it as the “first of its kind” in the United States, focusing on children who are exposed to several key adverse childhood experiences.

“Our country has been fighting the scourge of heroin for a long time,” the news release said. “The Martinsburg Initiative is the model solution that provides the way to finally win.”

The initiative relies on scientific research that connects adverse childhood experiences and likelihood of future drug use, officials said. Examples of such experiences include abuse, neglect, having divorced parents or having a mother who was the victim of domestic violence.

Burke Street and Winchester Avenue elementary schools will serve as the pilot schools for the new initiative, as the program seeks to make schools the center of positive community life, anti-drug activity and learning.

“Prevention starts at the school, family and child level,” Martinsburg Police Chief Maury Richards said at a news conference, according to The Journal of Martinsburg ( “Prevention is key in tackling demand. It’s an economic equation: If we hope to reduce supply we must reduce demand.”