Members of the Highland County Drug Abuse Coalition on Thursday heard an essay read by a local high school student on the impact of drug abuse and the choices faced by those tempted to use drugs, and announced that former baseball star Darryl Strawberry is coming to Hillsboro in April to discuss the dangers of drugs.
Haven Woods, a Fairfield High School student, visited the coalition to read an essay she wrote last year for Write In Red, an essay contest sponsored by the Paint Valley Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Board.
Woods was the contest winner in Highland County, and was awarded a $100 prize and a $500 college scholarship.
The contest ran in conjunction with Red Ribbon Week, a national drug prevention campaign that takes place in October.
Students from Highland, Fayette, Pickaway, Pike and Ross counties participated in the contest, and one winner from each county was selected for the scholarship.
The following is Woods’ essay:
Chances are you know someone addicted to drugs. Whether it’s the man with faraway eyes that you pass on the way to school, or the girl that sits in front of you in math. Maybe it’s someone you barely know, maybe it’s someone you love deeply. Drugs have crept into every community in America, leaving a wake of heartache wherever they go.
In 2016 there were 4,149 unintentional drug overdoses in Ohio alone. This epidemic is sweeping the Buckeye state, stealing life after life. Drug abuse is a special kind of destruction. First it steals the soul of the victim, then breaks the heart of everyone who has ever loved them. It stalks people at their lowest points, in their darkest nights. It comes to them disguised as joy, bliss, and contentment, only to entice them down an unforgiving trail of addiction, despair, and regret.
I believe that people need to be educated. They need to see the impact firsthand to truly understand the journey before they embark on it. They need to know where the seemingly peaceful road will lead. They don’t wake up one day and decide to be addicted to drugs. They start out like you and me, then they simply try it once. Before they realize what’s happening, they find themselves encased in the tangles and brambles associated with drug use.
For my life, I will choose the right path. I will choose to walk without regrets and despair. I will never be chained by drug abuse, my mind will never be altered with the toxic mix of chemicals. I will choose to endure whatever life throws at me, without the aid of substances. More importantly perhaps, I will choose to be a light to those struggling with this mental disease. I will choose to show them hope in a better life, hope in overcoming their addictions. Everything is a choice, and today I choose to be drug-free.
If I could say anything to those suffocating under the weight of addiction, or even considering drugs, I would say this: Choose hope. Choose to have hope in a better tomorrow. Choose to walk through this life with your mind clear, and your eyes bright. Choose to reach out to someone for help. Most importantly, remember that this life can get really low, it can get so dark that you can’t see your hand in front of your face… but this life can also be beautiful. Don’t miss out on the beauty of this life. Show up every single day, because yes, this life can get low, but I promise you, life can take you higher than drugs ever will.
Also Thursday, coalition President Heather Gibson said former Major League Baseball player Darryl Strawberry will be in Hillsboro in April for the Equipping Conference, an event to be held at Good News Gathering.
Gibson said Strawberry, who struggled with drug abuse during his baseball career, will be the keynote speaker at the event. The opening speaker will be Theresa Flores, a human trafficking survivor.
Gibson told The Times-Gazette that the event is designed to engage and equip the community in addressing substance abuse here.
Gibson said the event will be held April 18 at Good News Gathering. A Christian concert will also be held the evening prior.
“We’re really excited about it,” Gibson said.
Tonya Sturgill, treatment coordinator for the Highland County Probation Department, said a graduation ceremony for those enrolled in the Hillsboro Municipal Court’s Vivitrol program will be held at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the municipal courtroom at the Highland County Justice Center.
Gibson said the Quick Response Team, a multi-disciplined group of local officials and professionals that will visit the homes of drug overdose survivors and offer them treatment resources, is still set to begin making visits Feb. 1.
Gibson said the group is looking for “stabilization housing” for men in need of a safe place to stay while they wait to be accepted into treatment programs.
In other business, some of those in attendance discussed the importance of programs to prevent drug abuse for local youth.
Gibson said a fifth grader from Hillsboro Middle School spoke to her recently after the unveiling of the Quick Response Team, and shared some concerns about students whose families struggle with drug abuse.
Penny Dehner, executive director of the Paint Valley ADAMH Board, said, “These kids are facing mental health trauma every day. We’ve got to do a better job for our kids… Hopefully, we don’t have another generation of people addicted.”
According to its website, the Paint Valley ADAMH Board works with providers and community partners to provide prevention services for school-aged children. For more information, visit www.pvadamh.org/prevention.
The Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition is a group of law enforcement officials, mental health and drug treatment professionals, people of faith and concerned citizens who meet monthly to exchange ideas on how to reduce drug abuse in Highland County.
The group meets at noon every fourth Thursday of the month in the main conference room at the North High Business Center.
The coalition can be found on Facebook by searching “Highland County Drug Abuse Coalition.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.