GREENVILLE — The Coalition for a Healthy Darke County (Coalition) has organized a program in conjunction with Greenville High School (GHS) Principal Jeff Cassell to provide scientific data, evidence-based information and youth-led prevention dialogue about the growing addiction and substance abuse problem in the county.
On April 10, approximately 850, 9-12th grade students at GHS were recipients of that program through an assembly at the school.
“The Coalition believes in delivering a consistent message to youth that drugs can devastate their lives and destroy their futures,” said Sharon Deschambeau, president, Darke County Chamber of Commerce and Coalition. “We need to share that message whenever and wherever there is a teachable moment.”
The assembly speakers, included: Greenville graduate Anna Hatic, D.O., Board Certified Internal Medicine, Family Health; Timothy Kathman, M.D., Internal Medicine, V. P. of Medical Affairs, Wayne HealthCare and Darke County Coroner; Darke County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker; youth-led student group Darke County We Are The Majority, under the direction of Kelly Harrison Prevention Specialist, Recovery and Wellness of Midwest Ohio and GHS Senior Molly Hunt. In addition, Superintendent Doug Fries gave closing remarks. GHS Principal Jeffrey Cassell opened the assembly by telling the students the school was fortunate to have the panel of experts speaking to them.
“I felt this need to bring this information to you because of what is going on,” he said. “I know I am taking class time away from your tests, but I feel this is a need we have to address as quickly as possible.”
The first speaker Darke County Coroner Timothy Kathman said there were six overdose deaths in 2013, 10 each in 2013 and 2014, and 17 last year. So far this year there have been 12 deaths. He explained that in last year’s count, only one death was due to heroin. People think they are buying heroin, but in many cases they are buying additives, such as fentanyl and carfetanil that are many times more potent and deadly, he said.
“Most of you, at least I hope, say ‘no’ to that temptation, peer pressure or simple curiosity to try recreational drugs,” Kathman said. “Understand that once you say yes, you no longer have a choice. Statistically, there are some of you out there who have already said ‘yes’. Whether you realize or not, your age group is the prime target for recruitment in the world of recreational drugs, because teenagers are perceived to be fearless, rebellious, reckless, curious, susceptible to peer pressure and naive – which means easily misled. Do not be misled, do not underestimate the power that recreational drugs have to: capture you, enslave you, addict you and possibly to kill you.”
Through Family Health’s Dr. Anna Hatic’s presentation, students learned about other complications of drug addictions, such as infections that stem from shooting drugs into one’s veins. In addition, she spoke about what addiction is, what substances are commonly used and the consequences from addiction.
“I hope you can take the information and educate your friends and families to try to make a difference in our community,” she said. “I am sure all of your know a friend at school or a family member who is using drugs.”
Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker spoke about the big business of dealing drugs that inspires the dealers to constantly seek new customers. He also warned about the hidden additives in marijuana designed to develop a dependence and addiction to other drugs, keeping those dealers in business.
“We Are The Majority” Leader Kelly Harrison and Peer Leader Molly Hunt spoke about the importance of the student-led organization and keeping things positive.
“I know that it is hard sometimes to get on the right track.” Harrison said. “I know there are a lot of influences out there and a lot of things that may sound fun, that people really struggle with. “We are the Majority” is a group of kids that stand up to say most kids are not using drugs and school, most kids care about their future and they want to make a positive choice.
“Someday you guys are going to be the future and you are going to take this community,” Harrison said. “If you are not using drugs and alcohol, you are going to help our community be a better place – a better place for your kids. If you are not letting drug dealers into our community to make them happy and supply them with you using, the future is going to be much better for your children when they grow up in this community. I feel like it is time to make a stand and it is time for us to get some positive things going in this community. That is why I feel so grateful for the We are the Majority Teens that are making positive decisions. It is time to start standing up, use your voice if you don’t use, that means you care about yourself. If you are making that choice (to use), we have help and support at recovery services or doctors’s office, through a trusted adult or even a friend. At this time if you truly are not using and feel confident in speaking up and standing up – stand up.”
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