Talawanda school hosts drug prevention forum

By Kelsey Kimbler - For The Register-Herald

OXFORD – In an effort to help the community better tackle Butler County’s drug issues, Talawanda School officials hosted a drug prevention forum on Monday, Oct. 24.

Kelly Spivey, Talawanda Superintendent, and Amy Macechko, Health and Wellness Coordinator, moderated the forum, while several experts discussed different aspects of drug education.

This problem is mostly centered around Hamilton and Middletown, with a smaller percentage of overdoses in the surrounding cities, including Oxford, according to officials.

So far in 2016, the City of Oxford has had 23 overdoses, with the 23rd coming on Sunday, Oct. 23. Four have been fatal, officials said.

Alcohol was included in the presentation, with it called out as being “the drug of choice” in Oxford.

The meeting opened up with statistics regarding opiate and heroin use in Ohio. It is the leading cause of death for the state, and Ohio is actually the second worst drug state, according to officials.

Butler County is the leading drug county in Ohio, Spivy said.

Spivey wanted to get a sense of the audience’s knowledge of drug harm before the meeting, so the speakers had a link (or QR code) to a survey available. They had computers available for those who did not come with an internet enabled device.

The first presenter was Jennifer Mason, EMS Coordinator for Ft. Hamilton Hospital and the founder of FORT (Fort’s Opiate Recovery Taskforce).

Mason shared that her journey with drug education began when her son had an overdose in 2007 and she became aware of his status as an addict. She gave the audience a history of heroin, made from the poppy plant and stronger than morphine, white at its purest form, but different colors when cut with dangerous materials. When heroin was originally created (by Bayer Pharmaceuticals), it was marketed as a “non-addictive cough medicine.”

After her history lesson, Mason stressed that “addiction is a disease.” As further proof of the point, she stated addicts don’t “get high,” they “get well.” They take the heroin in order to be functional – they “party” with different (typically designer) drugs. Heroin is not a “party drug.” It is dangerously addictive after one use, and after addiction a user needs more just to survive.

After reviewing the statistics, Spivey summarized heroin is “mostly a white male problem,” but anyone can be affected and is at risk.

Lauren Marsh with Butler County Coalition for Healthy, Safe, & Drug Free Communities presented next.

She started by admitting that Butler County’s statistics are much higher than the City of Oxford’s, but four drug overdose related deaths are still too many. She shared a brochure of statistics.

Some of the highlights included:

• By 12th grade drug use in children has increased, especially marijuana use.

• Kids typically use at their friend’s houses.

• They get alcohol from their parents mostly.

She ended her presentation by showing “inventions” for drug use, including; a tie flask, a flamingo beer bong, and a dryer sheet filter to mask pot smell.

Oxford Police Chief John Jones took the stage next. After reiterating that Oxford’s overdose rates are lower than county, he admitted that some of that is due to serious overdoses being shipped to the University of Cincinnati’s hospital.

Jones’ main focus was the question of why drugs are a police issue and not just a “public health” issue. He pointed out, drug use increases crime rates; therefore it is in his job description (reducing crime) to reduce drug use.

The Oxford Police realize they can’t “arrest their way out of the problem.” This is a health issue as much as it is a crime issue, he said. Officer Matthew Wagers works with the schools to do a Street Smart 8-hour training on drugs and what to avoid.

The OPD is also preparing a Quick Response Team. The purpose of the team will be, instead of arresting addicts, to get them help. With this in place law enforcement can leverage jail time over the addicts head so they choose treatment instead, according to Jones.

Next was Fire Chief John Detherage, who spoke about the cleanup the fire department preforms after a drug incident. They keep a medic with the team, and it is typically a medic who treats a victim, so if anyone has questions they can ask someone with the answers, he said.

Detherage reiterated — alcohol is the biggest issue in Oxford. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are the big nights for alcohol consumption, and Fridays and Saturdays are even bad during the day.

They even get a lot of calls on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Butler County Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Squance is the School Resource Officer for Talawanda School District, and he shared disturbing stories regarding drug experiences with young children.

The biggest risk to these younger children is drug addicted parents, according to Squance. Not only does it affect them mentally and put them behind in development, but it puts them at risk as well, he said. There are many children with incarcerated parents. He was asked to the forum to share “real life stories” he has come across.

Squance began with the stories which show the mental effects drug addicted parents have on children. He said, “They have difficulty focusing, especially little kids. We have a little guy in Bogan (Elementary School), who’s in the first grade; he gets so angry and has outbursts. He pounds on his desk at school because his mother is in jail and he doesn’t know when she’s getting out.”

He continued, “We have another kid at Bogan who thinks he’s a wolf. This is a true story. He crawls around the hallways howling like a wolf. He tries to pretend that what’s going on in his life is not going on. He wants to be a wolf.”

Then there are the kids who turn against their parents, but do not have a choice of who they live with.

“We have a kid at Marshall’s who acts out constantly, because he was living with his Aunt in a stable environment and when his mom got out of jail she took him back. He is angry because he doesn’t want to live with his mom,” Squance said.

Squance shared other stories which showcase the physical harm drug addicted parents can have on their children. Squance opened the story with a warning that it was “really disturbing,” but went on.

“We have a teenage girl that lives in a trailer park. Her and her younger sister – their mom made them perform illegal activities so she could pay for her drug habits,” he said.

His goal is to try to keep these kids’ lives as normal as possible.

Moderator Amy Macechko ended the forum with some statistics on school drug use. Drug users in grades 7-12 use mostly alcohol and tobacco, but marijuana use is on the rise.

Oxford’s alcohol use is the highest in the region and county.

She stressed — most kids in Talawanda Schools are not using any drugs, and when they do, they are using on the weekends with their friends.

By Kelsey Kimbler

For The Register-Herald