The opioid and heroin epidemic is hitting one community in Ohio hard -- so hard that employers are struggling to fill jobs. They say one of the main reasons they can't hire is that too many people are failing drug tests or are not able to maintain their duties because of substance abuse.
To combat this, community members are tackling this issue at the school level before the job-seeking process even starts.
After hearing about multiple overdoses in the community and experiencing the death of a close friend from an overdose, John Stoops started the group Redbird Resilient to help the Loudonville-Perrysville school system carry out its Drug Free Club Program this year. “The more resilient we can make our community, the better we will be in fighting things like addiction," Stoops said.
Loudonville is located about halfway between Akron and Columbus.
The drug epidemic has forced more than 20 percent of area kids to be taken out of their homes to be raised by other relatives or friends.
As a result of rampant drug use, employers like Mansfield Plumbing Products are unable to fill jobs.
"We are the second-largest employer in Ashland County, so off the top of qualified applicants, people we're trying to hire, we have about 15 percent that can't pass the drug screen," said Natalie Thomas, Vice President of Human Resources for the company.
That’s why Stoops’ group and the school system are trying to reach the students by getting local businesses to give out freebies throughout the school year if kids can stay drug-free.
"It's not an end-all, it certainly is not that we can say this is the silver bullet," said Katherine Puster, superintendent for the Loudonville-Perrysville School District.
But as the school encourages the students to stay drug-free, the hope is the community will do so, too.
“The more resilient we can make our community, the better we will be in fighting things like addiction," said Stoops.
The Drug Free Club program will be offered to students for the first time this year starting in September.