High school fights drug epidemic

Kurt Benedict, Assistant Online Editor

Revere High School conducted an opiate panel discussion and showed a documentary to parents and community members on the ongoing drug epidemic and aims to give a new perspective on the issue.

Karen Smik, leader of Revere Community C.A.R.E., described the program which was held on Monday, November 20.

“These programs are important to educate people because, as we hear daily, there is a heroin and opiate addiction epidemic.  We need to keep getting the word out as the problem is not getting any better. It is not something we can ignore and hope will go away,” Smik said.

Smik also described what the documentary was about. The documentary Chasing the Dragon:  The Life of an Opiate Addict was produced by the FBI and the DEA.  It was a wrenching portrait of the escalating opioid epidemic told through the frank testimonies of young addicts and their family members.

“To me, the most disturbing part was that the recovering addicts profiled in the film came from good homes and loving families. They became addicted for different reasons — some started with marijuana use, some from becoming addicted to opiates after suffering a sports or other injury and some just because a peer dared them to try it one time — and after that one time, they were hooked.  Once they’re in the throes of their disease, family relationships and future goals take a back seat.  Addiction quickly became a never-ending cycle that dominates every moment of their lives. Many of them resort to theft, assault, and prostitution in order to maintain their destructive lifestyle,” Smik said.

Smik spoke about why a panel of experts came in to present their perspective on the issue of the opiate epidemic.

“The panel of experts included a drug court judge, someone from the Summit County Prosecutors’s Office, an ER doctor, a recovering addict and an individual who lost his son to a heroin overdose.  Each member of the panel presented important information from his/her perspective on the issue.  After the panel members spoke, attendees were able to ask questions,” Smik said.

Smik elaborated on how the information helps parents talk to their children about the issue.

“It is important that parents know about this issue so they talk to their children about it and are aware of addiction symptoms to look for as well as what resources are available to get help if needed,” Smik said.

Revere At-Risk Student Coordinator Bonnie Simonelli described the importance of the program and why it is important that parents have the most recent and up to date information about the opiate crisis.

“It’s important that parents have consistent, correct, and most recent information to share, because things change. . . .If you’re having these conversations at home, or if you see something on the news and the topic comes up, you all are on the same page about the epidemic, where we’re at currently, and what we can do to fight it,” Simonelli said.

Simonelli also mentioned the importance to keep the conversation about the crisis going at home and how parents should be having discussions with their kids about the issue.

“When their kids have questions, they have answers, or they have direction, or they will bring the topic up and will have questions for their kids, because a lot of things kids know before we do,” Simonelli said.

Simonelli also mentioned how the community being open to hearing these issues and admitting they happen here is important to use as a prevention and intervention tool.

“The community is very, very open here to hearing this, and they’re not in denial, which is awesome. This community is not saying “it doesn’t happen here,” because they do know it happens here, and they’re willing to fight against it. It’s awesome that they have that but it’s sad that we have that. It’s amazing that the community is so strong, and [they] want to stop things, and [they] want to be educated, but it’s sad that we have the problem here,” Simonelli said.

Simonelli also commented on how the programs are turning people’s thoughts around about the issue and how they have more dialogue about it.

“I really think that it’s turning people’s thoughts around and expressing it’s not okay, and they’re saying things like ‘Hey, I have a friend who has a problem’, and it’s starting to change, and I think we are going to slowly change our minds about the issue,” Simonelli said.

Revere High School Principal Phil King explained how the programs benefit the community.

“It benefits the community because it brings awareness to these problems that are going on and enables people that need help to find help,” King said.

A program for students is scheduled to be held in March 2018 about the issue.