Danielle Smoot talks to the group at Perrysburg High School about how her son Cole died from drugs.
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Abbi Coil was among about a dozen Perrysburg High School students listening to two parents and a grandfather who lost children to drugs.
It was an emotional session on Wednesday in the high school library, part of Ohio's new initiative to prevent drug abuse with youths.
"It was eye opening," said the young Coil, a junior at the high school "I hadn't heard real life stories."
Start Talking is a new drug abuse prevention initiative launched this month by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his wife Karen. Their goal is to keep children safe from the tragedies of drugs by talking about the dangers.
Parents Danielle Smoot and Paul Schoonover began the initiative sharing stories of losing their children.
Ms. Smoot said her 16-year old son Cole died from taking a pill. Mr. Schoonover said his 21-year old son grew up in a privileged house in Columbus, but on his first day out of rehabilitation was found dead from an overdose on heroin.
Findlay grandfather Tony Grotrian lost a 20-year old grandson to heroin.
"I don't want another family to go through what we went through," he said. "I urge parents to start talking about drugs and kids to talk to parents about it. I urge kids to stay away from [drugs].
"Silence is addiction"s best friend."
That sentiment was a theme throughout the hour-long discussion with about 100 northwest Ohio community leaders, law enforcement members, students, parents, and superintendents.
Bonnie Burman, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, led the discussion encouraging parents and their children to talk about drugs. She introduced John Born, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety; Dick Ross the director of Department of Education; Tracy Plouck director of Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services; Todd Crandell, founder of Racing for Recovery in Sylvania; Dan Paez, Perrysburg police chief; and Mark Wasylyshyn, Wood County sheriff.
"This is a top priority to the governor," Ms. Burman said.
Police Chief Paez emphasized that parents and families have to start talking the children about drugs. He used a phrase that others used in the presentation, that if parents don't talk to their children about drugs, someone else will.
"It was the kind of dialogue the governor and first lady are passionate about," Perrysburg Superintendent Tom Hosler said. "It makes sense, and is a simple approach to a huge problem."
Mr. Crandell said raising self esteem is imperative to preventing drug use. He said talking brutally honest with children about drugs is a must. That include for Mr. Crandell's children visits to graves of family members who died from drugs, he said.
For more on the Start Talking initiative, click here.
"It's simple. Start talking about the issue. It is effective and does work," Ms. Smoot said. "No parent should find their child passed away. There is nothing worse in this world than outliving your child."
Contact Matt Thompson at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.
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