COLUMBUS: Gov. John Kasich wants parents and other adults to talk to children about the dangers of abusing drugs and other substances, as the state works to combat problems with prescription pain pills and heroin.
Drug overdoses, coinciding with the increased use of painkillers and heroin, have surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio.
On Wednesday, Kasich kicked off a state initiative aimed at getting the drug-free message to middle school and high school students. He was joined by his wife; NFL hall of famer Anthony Munoz; the state’s attorney general and others to discuss the effort at two schools in southwest Ohio.
Parents might be surprised when drugs are found at high schools or a child has taken prescription drugs from a friend’s family member, said Tracy Plouck, director of the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
“Kids are using drugs and tempted to use drugs all across the state, and there’s a sort of ‘not-in-my-backyard’ sense among parents sometimes,” Plouck said in an interview with the Associated Press. “What we’re really trying to do is raise parental awareness that it can happen, and it’s important to stay ahead of that.”
The governor’s “Start Talking” initiative draws from new and existing drug prevention programs.
A state website for the initiative directs parents and school leaders to free resources from the Partnership at Drugfree.org. Information includes a video, discussion guide and documents so adults can speak more confidently to kids about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Parents, teachers and caregivers also can sign up for twice-monthly emailed newsletters from the Drug Free Action Alliance for tips about how to talk to children about the issue.
Plouck said the prevention message is critical for middle school students.
“Many young people haven’t been exposed to that sort of temptation prior to the middle school years,” she said, adding that they are still forming opinions. “We really want to make sure that parents are having really open, honest and candid discussions with their children by that point.”
Other efforts in the initiative include a program in which members of the State Highway Patrol and Ohio National Guard meet with high school athletes and encourage them to talk to their peers about being drug-free.
Ohio has tried to choke off supply and cut pain pill abuse. But the quick spread in recent years in the United States of cheap, potent heroin from Mexico and other countries has sent drug abuse and overdoses skyrocketing in the region.
Attorney General Mike DeWine calls heroin abuse an epidemic, killing at least 11 Ohioans a week. DeWine’s office says more than 600 heroin overdose deaths occurred in the state in 2012, a figure that was more than double from the number in 2010.