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Meeting encourages parent, child communication

New anti-drug website promotes early, frequent conversations with children

Patricia Beech – People’s Defender

Can we impact drug addiction by talking?

“We can,” says Susan Smith, Director of StartTalking!, an anti-drug website with considerably more teeth than past anti-drug programs like Just Say No.

The state-sponsored site provides parents, teachers, students, and businesses with tools and strategies that help start conversations with young people about living healthy drug-free lives.

According to Smith, the drug problem in Ohio has reached epidemic proportions. At a recent luncheon hosted by Holly Johnson and the office of Economic Development, Smith told local leaders, “Heroin addiction knows no economic boundaries. Every day, six Ohioans from every walk of life are dying from prescription opiate and heroin overdoses.”

Smith is not a stranger to the damage, is passionate about bringing StartTalking into communities.

Interested audience members listen to Susan Smith's presentation on "Start Talking", an anti-drug website. Photo by Patricia Beech - People's Defender
Interested audience members listen to Susan Smith’s presentation on “Start Talking”, an anti-drug website.
Photo by Patricia Beech – People’s Defender

“As a state, we’ve tackled this problem head on since 2011. We know there are a lot of folks in the trenches right now, and they need recovery options, we’ve worked with those groups to help make that available. We’ve also worked with law enforcement officers all across the state to make sure our communities and roadways are safe, but we’re not going to arrest our way out of this.

StartTalking was launched to give parents, guardians, educators and community leaders information and educational strategies to start the conversation with Ohio’s youth.

Parents360 guides caregivers as they attempt to open communication channels with children. Parents360Rx provides current information about “in” drugs and drug paraphernalia, and is used to educate adults about the dangers of drug abuse. It includes an eleven minute video of five families sharing their stories. Some of whom lost their loved ones.

In addition to educating adults, Smith explains that StartTalking believes schools have a key role to play in the battle. “So many teachers around the state indicated they wanted simple resources to get conversations started in their classrooms.” The site offers teachers Teachable Moments tips to kick off conversations with students.

The site also provides peer leaders guidance, “We knew that the kids would have a key role to play in this as well,” Smith says, “We look to our peer leaders in our schools and communities to help aid in the fight.”

Smith hopes that giving adults factual information and resources will spur action. “Once parents and other adults are aware of the problem, we hope that they act, and actually start having these conversations. We partnered with a non-profit professional organization called the Drug-Free Action Alliance, their Prevention Specialist writes the prevention tips. The tips are short, but they don’t just cover prescribed drugs and heroin, they run the gambit. It’s information any adult will need when raising kids.”

While much of StartTalking deals with recognizing and helping addicted youth, its central focus is on Ohio’s children.

“We need to do something to stop the next generation from going down this path,” Smith said “That’s why we started StartTalking, to arm parents and other adults who deal with youths in our state. This material will help us to have meaningful conversations with our kids.” StartTalking was based on national research that showed kids are 50 percent less likely to use drugs if parents have critical conversations with them. “They’re not always easy, sometimes it can be difficult, but it’s important to have these early and often,” according to Smith, “It’s a simple message that can have a long-lasting impact on our kids.”

For more information go to Start Talking@Ohio.gov.

Patricia Beech can be reached at 937-544-2391 or at pbeech@peoplesdefender.com

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