ALEXANDRIA, Ky. -- Jess Link knows sex and drug education is a hot-button topic for high schools.
Holly Phelps calls it "a touchy subject."
And Dylan Boling said he and his friends avoid the subject altogether. They used to, anyway.
Campbell County High School wants to change those perceptions: This year, 10th-grade health classes will see a new, updated curriculum through Teens Linked to Care, a partnership with the Brighton Center.
"We talk about what they see and then we are going to build programs based on what they think is high-need," said Link, Brighton Center's program coordinator.
Campbell County is one of three schools nationwide selected for the pilot program. Funding comes from a two-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Hilton Foundation.
"Resources they had were a little out of date and didn't really address the needs of our area, like keeping up with the current epidemic that's going on," said Phelps, Campbell County's assistant principal.
The new program is more interactive, Phelps said, and the school hopes it brings more engagement to the classroom.
For example, Phelps said students might hear about the opioid epidemic but not know what it's about.
"It's not bad people that are doing drugs, it's people that have a broken piece of their system," Link said.
Teens will learn how addiction happens, Link said -- and how to prevent it. One way is to delay teens' use of tobacco and alcohol, which Link said many people in Northern Kentucky view as low-risk drugs.
With sex, the teens can learn about medications and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases.
According to the CDC, the United States has 20 million new STD cases each year. Half are people between the ages of 15 and 24.
"It is hard to talk about, but through this Teens Linked to Care Initiative, we've been able to kind of remove that taboo from the room to be able to discuss what's really important," said Boling, a Campbell County senior and member of the program's student advisory board.
The next community advisory board meeting is at 2 p.m. Sept. 11, at Brighton Center.