The effects of drug abuse in a family can be devastating and heartbreaking for anyone involved, during this time of the pandemic, so many people are concerned about those children that may be in one of the homes where drug abuse is part of their lives.
Jocelyn Cooper is a vibrant, happy and intelligent young lady, but her life is not what she thought it would be. Cooper, just like so many other children, has experienced living life in a home with drug addiction. She has been living with her aunt Sonia Banks (Chris) and their family since she was 13, and in the seventh grade. However, instead of feeling sorry for herself and the things that have happened to her, Cooper started a new group to help teens just like her.
Cooper started the group Directly Affected in January 2020. This group is open to any teen seventh Grade+ who has been affected by drug abuse in their lives. The post on their Facebook page states, ‘Directly Affected is a peer ran support group for youth affected by the opioid epidemic. 1 in 4 Scioto County Youth are food insecure, leaving children of the opioid epidemic at increased risk.
Cooper explained how this group came to be, ” I had an interview back in January after my dad died from an overdose, and I was with a couple of other teenagers I hadn’t really known, but I hadn’t really talked about my problems when it first started, I told nobody when dad died. But with them, I kind of felt open with them and I hadn’t told any of my friends and they didn’t know until the article came out.”
Cooper said, “Being with those teens I felt open and talked with them because they were in the same type of situation that I was in. After that, I felt like every teen kind of needs that type of support.” The Directly Affected group is open to any teen that might be going through the same thing as Cooper either now or before. The first meeting was in January and they were averaging around nine or so attending.
This group was meeting at Sunshine Church of Christ in Minford and there were different people who were feeding them at every meeting. This food serving has still been going on even though the meeting is being held virtually. Cooper said that the food is just being delivered to the kids that attend these meetings. Right now, it is being delivered to the kids that come a lot. She wasn’t positive but said that Heather Evans and Dominique Myrick have been taking care of this part of the meetings. Cooper said that a lot of kids look forward to that meal because they have some pretty good food. On their Facebook page, it states, ‘If you or your organization is interested in feeding 22-25 children, contact us!’
Cooper said they have been holding virtual meetings since around the time that school stopped. I did all the meetings when we had the meetings, and I have done most of the meetings online, but I’ve also had people from the group do the meetings. She said that she had talked with The New York Times for an article, but that she had never spoken in front of a big group until this group. She said that she spoke in front of the class in school for presentations, and “Oh, my face got so red, it was awful. And now, I’ve talked in front of 100 people, recovery coalition, and now I speak a lot, but not before this, I did not.”
Cooper said that now she loves to lead the group and speaking now. “I think things are going great in the group, I’ve already seen that it helps children, in just the group I have going now. I don’t care if it’s four kids that come, if some people are getting something out of it, I’ll still have the meetings. It is helping me. The meetings are open for anyone who follows the Directly Affected page on Facebook and they can get the meetings, and it will pop up live or you can go to the page and it will show. Even after the meeting is over, you can go on and watch the meeting.”
Cooper said she would like to see the group grow, especially after they are able to meet together again, “I want it to take off and get as big as it can, not only around here but everywhere, even if someone else does the same in their area.” She also said that she thinks that you get more when you get to meet because you’re together and you can all talk back and forth and not everyone else can see that, no parent or adult. She said that even though that is true, it is important that they keep the virtual meetings going because she knows that a lot of kids might go downhill if there is not something.
Cooper also said there are a lot of people who help in the group, probably around seven of them. And then she also stated that there are a lot of adults that work outside of the scene, getting the food set up and collecting money for the group to be able to do things, especially in the summer, after the restrictions are lifted. “We have also had Mollie who works at Path Integrated Mental Health and she helps a lot as she talks to us about mental health.”
Cooper has been telling her story for a while now as she has talked on WSAZ, The Today Show and on CNN with Lisa Ling, and this has not yet aired. “I’m just glad I’m getting the word out there, that’s my biggest thing, is just getting the word out there that you are not the only one going through this. I want everyone to know, they are obviously not the only ones. Everything can get better because I’ve come a long way from where I used to be. I am so thankful for Sonia.”
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928
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