Lawmakers trying to help kids impacted by the opioid epidemic, poverty

It started with an Ohio police officer who wanted to help the children of drug addicts

Drug Addiction, Heroin, Suicide Generic

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – Thousands of young people across Ohio may feel like their dreams are slipping away and hope in their future is fading as their parents fall victim to opioids and crushing poverty.

Nearly a year ago, a police officer in Waverly, Ohio decided to do something about that, after seeing the loss of hope in the eyes of the teenagers in his community.

Captain Dennis Crabtree has been a police officer for 14 years and throughout his career, he has had to show up at homes for domestic disturbances and drug-related offenses that resulted in him having to take a parent away in handcuffs.

He said he never realized the psychological effect the image of him hauling the adult off to jail had on their children until a young teenage girl took her life.

Having felt like he has contributed to the mental anguish the teens are dealing with, Crabtree reached out to several of them after an assembly at the high school last year. He wanted to mentor them and to show them that there was hope for their future and that they were not alone in this world.

Crabtree said it was difficult at first; they simply didn’t trust him.

“I had three things against me from the get-go: One, I’m a cop; two, I’m an adult; and three, I’m a man; and the three things they hate, I was all of them,” said Crabtree.

Desi Swepston is a freshman at Waverly High School and a friend of the girl who took her life. She agrees; she didn’t trust him at first.

“At first, it was pretty had to trust him, like, with my background with my dad; and police officers. I just don’t trust in general because of everything, and he’s an adult, and adults tend to let a lot of us down a lot,” said Swepston.

Now, 11 months later, he has earned the trust of Swepston and nearly a dozen other students who came with him to the Statehouse on Thursday. He is trying not to let them down.

They all participated in the announcement of the OhioCorps program which is designed to help kids just like Swepston and the 10 other teenage girls from Pike County who were with her at the capitol.

The OhioCorps program seeks to connect at-risk youth with college-aged mentors and would provide financial assistance to students who expect to see no financial help from their families for college or who are impacted by family members struggling with opioid addiction.

The specifics of the program are still being hashed out, and a bill is expected to be introduced to the General Assembly in the coming weeks.

Presidents of several state universities as well as the Speaker of the House, who represents Pike County, stood with the 11 teenage girls for the announcement.

Additionally, the girls meet with the President of the Senate and Governor Kasich on separate occasions.

Governor John Kasich was so taken by their stories that he has pledged to help with funding for other needs they, their families, and other families like theirs across Ohio have.

Swepston says all of this has helped change her mind that some adults, even police officers, can be trusted.

Lawmakers will have to move swiftly to get the legislation through the legislative process before the general assembly come to an end in December.


WKBN 27 First News provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. No links will be permitted. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s