LIMA — I love you.
Those should be the first three words in every conversation, said Mental Health and Recovery Services Executive Director Michael Schoenhofer, especially when talking about drugs with your kids.
In a community discussion on alcohol and drugs and its impact on youth and families in the community, the director and Judge Glen Derryberry of Allen County Juvenile Court spoke about the issue, encouraging the community to not only get more active in the war against drugs but to also talk to community youth about drug abuse.
The goal, Schoenhofer said, is to start a conversation motivating the community and inspiring and energizing its members to make a difference.
Judge Derryberry said though not many in his court system were locked up strictly because of drug abuse or trafficking, it was a common factor in all court issues from runaways, truancy or delinquency. Most of the time, drug abuse started as early as middle school, he said.
The bottom line? It’s only a matter of time until your child is offered a chance to get high no matter where you live, the school system or your economic class. The important question, Schoenhofer said, is if they’re prepared.
As a part of the Start Talking campaign, the director said parent disapproval and intervention was the biggest deterrent in drug abuse.
An audience member also pointed out that helping kids establish his or her own “why,” helps as well. In other words, what is their reason for not wanting to do drugs or make bad decisions overall?
Community organizations such as the Partnership for Violence and Families have also contributed to efforts to deter drug use in Allen County with after-school programs, intervention and screening efforts. Multiple treatment options and support groups are also available in the area.
These efforts have helped to decrease abuse by 50 percent, but that’s not enough, Schoenhofer said. That means there’s still 50 percent who use. We need to do more to not just react but to prevent drug abuse.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this. We can’t treat our way out of this,” he said. “We need to say enough is enough.”
The task won’t be easy, however, as audience members referred to the increasing challenge to discourage marijuana use, especially as it becomes legalized. Stereotypes and geographical blocks also make the job that much harder, Derryberry pointed out.
But that’s all the more reason for the county to identify and further support organizations trying to prevent drug abuse or other bad decisions, like a new community youth group or Facebook groups promoting activities and opportunities for children to get involved.
“We need a new definition of heroes,” Derryberry said. “We can’t save everyone and we don’t have to. But we can make our community better and our future better; one hero at a time, one kid at a time and one future at a time.”
To get involved audience members were encourage to attend an Engaging Communities, Making Change Coalition meeting on from 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 4 at the PVFF facility on High Street.