UHRICHSVILLE Addiction prevention educator Diana Smith had a hands-on lesson ready for her fourth grade class. The students had to draw their hands. On the inside of each finger they wrote the name of a person they could talk to, a confident adult to whom they could confide their problems and joys.
She told them that everyone needed someone to talk to, to keep small problems from getting worse. Problems are like stones we put in bags, she said.
“The more stones you put in a bag, the heavier it is. The more feelings you put in that bag, the heavier it gets. To remove these stones, you’re going to talk about feelings,” Smith said. .
A boy had nothing to write on his fingers.
He told Smith he couldn’t talk to his mother, uncles or aunt because they were using drugs. His father beat him. He couldn’t talk to a policeman either. His parents had told him that if he did, he would be taken away.
Smith changed direction. She told the children that they could still talk to their teachers, even if they saw them away from school.
Every child had to put ‘the police’ in a finger, she said, ‘because I want children to understand that there is no safer person than a policeman.’
She offered another option for children who feel they don’t have a trusted adult to confide in. These are orange signs placed around the Twin City area that mark “safe zones” for children to report abuse, neglect, drug issues or even things they are proud of, like making a voucher. game in a game or a cool drawing.
Signs can be found at the Uhrichsville Municipal Building, Dennison Village Hotel, Twin City Chamber of Commerce, Claymont Public Library in Uhrichsville and Dennison, and Pindrop Shop in downtown Uhrichsville . While new locations may be added, Smith said they will never be in a private home.
The panels are part of Initiative 922, a committee of the Tuscarawas County Anti-Drug Coalition and Addiction Task Force, formerly known as the Opioid Task Force. This initiative aims to combat drug abuse in the Uhrichsville and Dennison regions.
Start the initiative
Smith is a drug abuse prevention specialist for Takin ‘it to the Schools, an educational program run by the OhioGuidestone of New Philadelphia.
Initiative 922 started two years ago because the Twin Cities are a “hot spot” for overdoses and overdose deaths, said Smith, who lost a sibling to an overdose two years ago. month.
The region has had 17 overdoses this year, as of Tuesday, and two deaths, Smith said. The region includes the townships of Uhrichsville, Dennison and Mill, Union, Rush and Warwick.
Across the county, there have been 82 drug overdoses this calendar year and nine deaths, according to Natalie Bollon, executive director of the Tuscarawas and Carroll Counties Alcohol, Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.
Interest in using chemicals to affect mood is not limited to adolescents and adults. This goes to children whose ages are counted in one digit.
Smith said she recently received a vaping device that was confiscated from a third-grader. She said that children prefer electronic cigarettes to tobacco.
“That’s what scares us the most,” Smith said, “because you can put so many different chemicals inside vapes that we don’t know as teachers, as professionals. , as parents: are they getting nicotine or are they getting something else? “
She said kids buy vapes from older siblings and friends, or buy them over the internet. Some even get them from their parents who are unaware of the dangers.
“They feel it’s safer than tobacco, traditional cigarettes,” Smith said.
Teri Edwards, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, applauded Smith’s efforts to lead the 922 Initiative.
“From day one, she’s the girl to do what needs to be done,” Edwards said. “She is undertaking a very difficult task. It’s necessary. She was swept under the carpet much more than today. But I think people are finally really starting to realize that we can’t keep sweeping this under the rug.
“We have a problem here. And if we want our children, in particular, to break these cycles, we have to be loud. We have to be in front of you. We have to be there to do whatever we can do to help people who need help, to give them the treatment they need, but also to teach these children: “This is not your destiny. You don’t have to follow in anyone’s footsteps. “
“A lot of these kids don’t have support at home,” Edwards said. “We want to show them that there is a whole network, there is a community that can help you get to where you need to be and keep you as safe as possible.”
Should a troubled child come into the House office to seek help, Edwards says she would know where to find it, whether it be the police, social workers or other helpers.
“I have a husband who just retired from the estate (child protection services) after 31 years,” she said.
Edwards said she was also willing to just listen if a child just needed to talk.
Jessika Zontini, owner of Pindrop Shop, said her first reaction would be to listen and ask the child what’s going on.
Library director Donna Moody said she could take a child to a private office or conference room to listen to them, and call Tuscarawas County Employment and Family Services if needed. .
Spread the word
In addition to the ‘safe zone’ signs, Initiative 922 will broadcast information on overdoses, deaths and treatments in the week before and during the Dennison Railroad Festival from June 2-5.
Project Hope is an education and awareness effort for mental health promotion, substance abuse prevention, and treatment and recovery services in Tuscarawas County.
Project Hope presents a visual representation of the addiction toll. Sets of three silhouettes are placed outside. One is a black silhouette, representing overdose deaths in Tuscarawas County. A gray silhouette represents overdoses in the participating community. A yellow family group represents hope.
Each silhouette installation is accompanied by a sign displaying the names and phone numbers of local agencies that can help addicts survive and recover.
Get in touch
The OhioGuidestone Hope Line, (330) 663-6812, is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday to 10 p.m. Sunday. Messages can be left at any time. The line can accept texts.
More information is available online at http://adctusc.org/ or on the Initiative 922 Facebook page.
Contact Nancy at 330-364-8402 or [email protected]
On Twitter: @nmolnarTR