By Wayne Allen
A number of state, regional and local officials gathered at the Wheelersburg Local Schools on Thursday for the Southern Ohio kick-off of “Start Talking,” a youth drug prevention initiative.
The kick-off included a number of speakers including, Mark Knapp, superintendent of Wheelersburg Local Schools. Dr. Richard Ross, superintendent of Ohio Department of Education, Tracy J. Plouck, director of Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), Orman Hall, director of Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team (GCOAT), Rep. Terry Johnson, (R – McDermott), Robert Ware, chief of Portsmouth Police Department, Mike Estep, teacher and coach at Wheelersburg Local Schools, Danielle Smoot, parent and founder of Cole’s Warriors, Paul Schoonover, parent, and JoAnna Krohn, parent and founder of SOLACE.
Each of the speakers addressed those in attendance about the importance of this initiative.
The initiative has and is scheduled to have kick-off events in various parts of the state to mark the beginning of available resources.
“At first glance a strange to Wheelersburg Local Schools may find it difficult to believe that our school is impacted by drug use,” Knapp said. “We have a lot of great things happening within our school. I think my fellow superintendents would agree with me on the devastating impact drugs have in our schools and in our community. So often, the impact to our students comes in the form of poor academic performance, negative relationships with school staff and peers. In the school setting on a daily basis we practice prevention and intervention and we know the positive types of academic results we get from these types of efforts.”
Knapp said that’s why he is excited about he initiative.
Representing area law enforcement at the event, Ware spoke to those in attendance about the importance of such efforts for the youth.
“If you go back to 1998, that’s when we first started talking about the problem. Law enforcement saw the overdose deaths so then we talk about why did they occur. Now we have pill mills, what do we do about those? Each conversation brought another person into the group,” Ware said. “By the time we formed the drug action team and got stat officials involved and explained to them what we had going on and what our needs were. That collaboration began to grow and continues to this day. We have no more pill mills here.”
He said thanks to those efforts, the area was designated a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). Ware said being designated a HIDTA area has and will continue to be a great resource for the area in the fight against drugs.
“As a part of this task force, the sheriff’s office and police department, as a part of the HIDTA task force, seized more than a million dollars in assets in the last 18 months,” Ware said.
According to Gov. John Kasich’s Communication Department. “Start Talking is inspired by research that shows youth are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs when parents and adults talk with them about substance use and abuse.” The department also said, “a number of school from across the state have pledged their support and committed to promoting the Start Talking program. The initiative brings together four programs designated to interact with parents, and adults in different ways.”
The four programs are, “Know!,” a drug prevention and awareness partnership developed by the Drug-Free Action Alliance and targets parents and caregivers of middle school students and empowers them to raise the children substance-free; “Parents 360 Rx,” a component of a national community education program developed by the partnership at drugfree.org that has demonstrated significantly increased knowledge of substance abuse among adults, thereby enhancing confidence in their ability to speak with teens about the subject; “5 minutes for life,” is led by the Ohio Highway Patrol and the Ohio National Guard, as well as local law enforcement, in partnership with local high schools and the Ohio High School Athletic Association; and “Building Youth Resiliency,” and encouraging good behavioral health among young people are both essential to enhancing their ability to resist substance abuse and addiction.
For more information about the Start Talking initiative, visit www.starttalking.ohio.gov.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT