By MORGAN MANNS
Signs for heroin and opioid use may be hidden in plain sight.
A grassroots organization looking to spread awareness and education on the heroin and opioid epidemic locally has set out to help parents and guardians better identify these signs they may see on a daily basis in their kids’ lives.
Hosted by H.O.P.E. (Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education), Hidden In Plain Sight is set for 5-7 p.m. Thursday at Fostoria Intermediate Elementary School, 1202 HL Ford Drive, and will include a free, interactive exhibit.
“The purpose is to make adults aware of items that could indicate risky behavior that would be hidden in plain sight,” Amie Hathaway, H.O.P.E. president, said. “We want people to look for things that would make them wonder, ‘Why is that in there?’ They’re everyday items that you expect to see in the house — such as a nail file — but you wouldn’t expect to see in a place like your son’s room.
“We want to make people aware and encourage them to take that second look and think, ‘Why is this in here?’ and then have that conversation with their family.”
CARSA (Community Action for Substance Abuse), Tiffin, is putting the exhibit together with items indicating substance abuse of varying kinds with a focus on heroin and opioids.
Adults will go through the exhibit, spending as much time in there as they’d like, with a clipboard to write down what they observe and any questions they may have. They are then sent to a debriefing room where they have the opportunity to be educated on items they might not have recognized or items they did recognize that could be indicators of substance abuse.
A vendor room will include various resources for parents/guardians to utilize. Representatives from CARSA, the school, Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services, Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio, Inc. and more will be on hand to answer questions and help educate families on how to handle these types of situations if they should arise.
A final room will include a 15-20 minute discussion entitled “David’s Story: Beyond the Statistics, Substance Abuse & Stigma.” Told by Julie Reinhart and Lindsay Vaughn, the discussion tells the story of their brother who passed away from an unintentional heroin overdose in 2016.
While the exhibit is geared toward adults working with teens, parents, caregivers, educators and those over the age of 21, the discussion is geared more toward students.
“Awareness and education is what we’re focusing on,” Evelyn Marker, H.O.P.E. secretary, said. “Some people may think they’re immune from having to deal with substance abuse in their family, but substance abuse affects everybody. It crosses all boundaries — young, old, male, female.”
H.O.P.E. is hosting the event in partnership with Fostoria City Schools’ Title I Family Night. In addition to the exhibit, discussion and education on the heroin/opioid epidemic, the Title I Night will include math and reading activities, a pizza dinner, Dr. Seuss, Leader in Me information and a CCP meeting at 5:30 p.m.
To encourage participation, H.O.P.E. is offering two incentives.
FCS students in grades 11 and 12 can receive a 50 percent discount on this year’s prom ticket when they register with a parent/guardian and turn in a completed survey at the event.
Any student in grades 9 and 10 who register with a parent/guardian and turn in a completed survey during the event will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win one of four $25 K-Mart gift cards.
This is the second local event in a series promoting prevention and education in the drug overdose epidemic. The first event took place in January and covered prescription medicine’s role in opioid addiction. Hathaway said more than 90 people attended, which was “wonderful for a first event.”
“We weren’t expecting as much audience participation,” Marker added. “What we’re learning as we do this is people want to tell their stories.”
Formed in mid-2017, H.O.P.E. in Fostoria is a grassroots organization focused on education and prevention. It originated with the Fostoria Kiwanis Club and the United Way of Fostoria as officials began seeing a need in the community to address the rising heroin epidemic.
The Kiwanis Club first hosted a discussion on the local affects of the problem in June 2016, but soon realized the topic was too big for one entity. After reaching out to the United Way, the first meeting for the new organization took place in April 2017.
The committee now includes 13 members representing a cross-section of Fostoria from businesses to manufacturing to law enforcement to medicine to the schools to religious institutions and more.
Members include Hathaway, ReMax realtor and Fostoria Kiwanis Club past president; Marker, United Way of Fostoria executive director; Jennifer Abell, director of student services at Fostoria City Schools; Officer Brandon Bell with the Fostoria Police Department; Autumn Clouse, human resources for Mennel Milling; Andrea Cress, First Federal Bank branch manager; the Rev. Bernie Dickson with Fostoria Church of the Nazarene; Mircea Handru, executive director with Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot counties; Steve Lehmann, DC, private practice chiropractor; Amy Preble, director of Emergency and Dialysis Services at ProMedica Fostoria Community Hospital; Julie Reinhart, marketing for Mennel Milling; Ed Schetter, state executive director at Abate of Ohio and fleet sales manager for Reineke Findlay Ford; and Jason Yoakam, president/CEO of JYoakam Communications.
As a group, H.O.P.E. is committed to at least one year of education to the community. Events will also be planned in March, May, July, September and November.
For more information on the event or on H.O.P.E. in Fostoria, visit the HOPE in Fostoria Facebook page or call 419-435-4836.