Teens learn about opioid epidemic, prevention

Empowering 4-H and FFA youth to talk to their peers about combating the opioid epidemic was the catalyst behind Hope for Ohio: A Teen Forum on the Opioid Crisis in December.

Ohio Farm Bureau, OSU Extension, Ohio FFA and Prevention Action Alliance partnered to host the event, along with support by event sponsors Nationwide and Monsanto.

Hope for Ohio brought youth and their parents from across the state to the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center to discuss the epidemic, which has made a significant impact in rural communities across Ohio and is a priority issue for Farm Bureau.

At the forum, youth and their parents heard from experts in the trenches of the epidemic, including keynote speaker Wayne Campbell, president and co-founder of Tyler’s Light, named after his son who he lost to an overdose in 2011.

He presented some grim statistics to the crowd, including that one out of five high school students have tried to use prescription drugs to get high. He also noted that in 2015, eight people died every day in Ohio due to accidental overdose. That number increased to 12 per day in 2016.

Teens at the event were asked to submit questions to Town Hall speakers Pastor Greg Delaney, outreach coordinator at Woodhaven; agent Scott Duff of the Ohio Attorney General’s office and LeeAnne Cornyn, director of children’s initiatives for the attorney general’s office. Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office unveiled a plan called “Recovery Ohio” in October detailing 12 initiatives to help fight the opioid epidemic. Visit ohioattorneygeneral.gov for information.

Two main topics of conversation revolved around the negative stigma attached to drug addiction and the question of where people can go to get help and start treatment.

“People think that addicts can just quit,” Delaney said. “They don’t understand the control that the drug takes over a user’s life.”

Several breakout sessions addressed peer-to-peer prevention, warning signs for parents and teens and how to address the opioid epidemic within the community, all with the aim of stemming the tide of drug addiction before it starts.

“It is easier to build boys and girls than to rebuild men and women,” noted David Kohout, of Talk is Cheap, an organization dedicated to “building character, establishing confidence, providing hope and inspiring greatness in the lives of young people.”

Hope for Ohio is one of several initiatives Ohio Farm Bureau and county Farm Bureaus are participating in to help combat the opioid epidemic in Ohio.

Caption: Wayne Campbell, president and co-founder of Tyler’s Light, speaks at the event which was a teen forum held in December to discuss how to give youth the tools they need to help combat the opioid epidemic.