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Drug prevention programs ramp up efforts to curb use and addiction ahead of teen summer fun

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Posted at 7:09 AM, May 24, 2021

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — Counties across Northeast Ohio are issuing warnings about spikes in drug overdose deaths, especially in Akron. The city has seen a 140% increase in the first four months of this year compared to the same time last year. In addition, preliminary data from the CDC shows drug overdose deaths have reached an all-time high in the U.S.

Like many education classes this year, drug and alcohol prevention programs in Northeast Ohio had to pivot, while still focusing on getting important messages out.

“There's so many efforts going on currently within our school districts as well, really just trying to focus on the overall mental wellness of the youth,” said Kimberly Patton, a Prevention and Training coordinator with Summit County ADM Board. Addiction.

Patton says many of their programs are starting to get back to in-person work targeting teens, daycares and pre-schools.

“In Summit County we start prevention as early as 18 months," she said.

Studies show when parents talk to kids about drugs and alcohol, there's a 50 percent chance at reducing addiction down the line. As teens look to summer parties and celebrations, making sure they make smart decisions is a priority for a lot of these programs.

Fourteen-year-old Laura Wagner, who goes to Revere High School, just finished her first year with the Summit County Youth to Youth program. She says the group training showed her how to help classmates and friends using social media to send fun, positive anti-drug messages.

“I've had some friends who just like want a little bit of support,” she said. “It's been really fun being able to reach out to kids online even though we can't see them in person.”

But the training also helped her cope with stress.

“I think a lot of us just realize that it's hard for a lot of people to do this. But drugs and alcohol are really harmful and we try to educate others about how harmful they can be and that it's definitely not worth it," she said.

For now, the group continues to host virtual camps. However, the program hopes to start in-person training for new members in August. To learn more, click here.

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