YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Police departments are putting it on their Facebook pages, schools are hanging posters in the hallways; a conversation is starting and it’s about drugs.
Ohio Lt. Governor Mary Taylor was in Youngstown on Monday kicking off the statewide Start Talking anti-drug initiative. The program will be funded in part through a $1 million grant to be shared among school districts where 40 percent or more of the families are low-income.
Taylor visited East High School in Youngstown to officially kick off the campaign that is aimed at opening communication among students, families, and communities about the dangers of drug use. She was one of a number of speakers at the kickoff.
“We don’t have to be medical professionals or be able to deal with mental health issues from a medical perspective. We can be parents, we can be community leaders, we can be coaches, we can be law enforcement, we can be teachers,” Taylor said.
Start Talking is inspired by research, and adopted by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, 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.
“I hear heartbreaking stories around the state about parents who have lost children to drug abuse or overdose before their youthful potential could be fully realized,” said Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich. “As a mother, I know that no family or neighborhood, affluent or disadvantaged, urban or rural, is immune from the dangers of drugs. However, we can educate ourselves, connect with our communities and start talking to our children about these issues to help them resist peer pressure and temptations to use drugs.”
Sitting in the audience was a local mother of three who said parents can only do so much to get their kids to listen.
“But if they keep hearing the same thing from other people and other people keep encouraging the same things that the parent does, then it’s more likely that the child will begin to listen and say ‘maybe there is something here, maybe I should start listening’,” said Tina Cvetkovich of Youngstown.
Cvetkovich has been clean and sober herself for the past 10 years and now has a school age daughter of her own.
Angela McCoy has a 12-year-old daughter in the Youngstown City Schools and said she worries about the effect peer pressure will have on her
“I have a stable home, a Christian home, but when she leaves my house, what does she deal with? What does her friends try to tell her? What do they talk her into doing?,” McCoy said.
Dale Batdorf brought many in the audience to tears explaining how he lost his own son to a heroin overdose several years ago. He now hopes the story will spare other parents from enduring what he and his son did.
“He said ‘I’m strong and I know I can handle it.’ I said ‘Dustin, I hope you’re right. ‘Cause if you’re wrong, you’re dead wrong.’ He was wrong,” Batdorf said.
In 2011, drug overdoses were the leading cause of accidental deaths in our state, with one Ohioan dying from a drug overdose every five hours.
Start Talking promises to broaden public and professional education, particularly regarding the prescribing and abuse of opioids; law enforcement has ramped up interdiction efforts on Ohio highways and in communities; and treatment options and recovery supports have been expanded to help those struggling with addiction regain control of their lives.
Start Talking will bring together four programs designed to interact with parents and other adults in different ways:
- Know! is a drug prevention and awareness partnership developed by The Drug-Free Action Alliance that targets parents and caregivers of middle school students and empowers them to raise their children substance-free. Its goal is to increase communication between parents and their children about substance abuse. This is achieved through free, twice-monthly emails that offer parent tips to families to help them talk about this subject.
- Parents360 Rx is 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. Ohio is disseminating Parents360 Rx Action Toolkits to assist parents and school leaders in hosting discussions locally to support prevention efforts in their communities.
- 5 Minutes for Life is led by the Ohio Highway Patrol and the Ohio National Guard, in partnership with high schools and the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). Patrol and National Guard members talk to student athletes and encourage them to become ambassadors who lead peer-to-peer conversations that promote healthy lifestyles. The statewide partnership involves all 58 Patrol Posts, more than 800 OHSAA -member high schools and Ohio National Guard Service members from around the state.
- Building Youth Resiliency and encouraging good behavioral health among young people are both essential to enhancing their ability to resist substance abuse and addiction.The Office of Ohio First Lady Karen W. Kasich, in partnership with other state agencies, is seeking applications to assist local communities in utilizing evidence-based programs to help youth resist substance use.This initiative will give communities and schools the tools to develop student’s resiliency so they have the courage to push back against peer pressure.
For more information on Start Talking, click here.