Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine stood before about 125 people at his seventh Drug Abuse Town Hall seeking input from invited panelists and the public.
What he heard was similar to what others around Ohio have said — there needs to be more education at all grade levels about the dangers of drugs, and there needs to be more treatment beds and longer treatment programs to help addicts get clean.
But, DeWine said, expensive fixes aren’t always the most important factor in creating a successful anti-drug effort.
“The counties and communities that have really made a difference and turned the tide on this [problem] are communities that have citizens’ groups that have focused on education and focused on prevention,” he said Thursday afternoon at First United Methodist Church on North Park Avenue.
“They have pulled the churches in, pulled the school in, teenagers, parents, law enforcement — everybody working together.
“Many times, I have seen these groups run by a mom or dad who has lost a child to heroin, who have lost a child to prescription drugs. It works. They bring a passion, and they take the tragedy from the loss of a child, and they try to do something good.”
Amy Frederick, mother of three, one of whom is a heroin addict, said drug education is needed “in every school, on every level, every year” so that kids understand at an early age that opiates such as heroin can’t be used recreationally.
She said children need to understand that such drugs can create a life-altering addiction after only one dose.
Mandatory drug screening in the schools “will either prevent use or catch it at an early level,” she said.
One woman expressed the opinion that lack of jobs is a factor that adds to the incidence of drug addiction in the area.
“What I would like to see is more jobs. Why do they get high? Because they’re bored,” she said. “Anyone who has self worth doesn’t need drugs.”
Major Thomas Stewart of the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office said he thinks world political leaders are the people who could make the biggest difference in the drug war.
“It starts at the top,” he said, adding that few people hold leaders accountable when large amounts of drugs are being produced and shipped out of their country.
“Drugs are the cause of our crimes, and that is where we need to focus all of our energy,” said Capt. Jeff Orr, commander of the Trumbull Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force, the top area drug-investigative unit.
A task force organized under the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention has been working for a year to develop a community-wide strategy to combat drug abuse, Orr said.
It will be unveiled at an event at 6 p.m. March 22 at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center, 528 Educational Highway in Champion.