Honest, Open Communication With Teens Among Strategies To Prevent Drug Abuse

Maumee families meet with local organizations and business to discuss gateway drugs and substance abuse during the “Teens & Substance Abuse – A Look at Gateway Drugs” event. The second annual parent education night offered by Maumee City Schools featured a keynote speaker, panel discussion and several vendors. It was also supported by Maumee first responders and the Maumee Substance Abuse Intervention League. MIRROR PHOTO BY KRISTI FISH
A panel of experts was involved in the parent education night, including (from left) Superintendent Steve Lee, Don Adamski, Maumee Police Chief Josh Sprow, Dr. Jim North, Maumee Middle School principal Angie Wojcik, Adrienne Sautter, Maumee Fire & EMS Deputy Chief Jim Dusseau and prevention and outreach community coordinator Abby Schroeder. PHOTO COURTESY OF MAUMEE CITY SCHOOLS

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Maumee families were invited to the second parent education night of the year hosted by Maumee City Schools on November 30.

“Teens & Substance Abuse – A Look at Gateway Drugs” aimed to educate parents and students on the dangers of drug use and how to prevent issues from arising when possible.

Community experts and those with experience in substance abuse education and prevention spoke on a panel at the event.

Adrienne Sautter, a parent who lost her son to accidental fentanyl poisoning, was the keynote speaker.

“That one small choice that he made to experiment, to listen to his friend who glorified this high, it cost him his life,” Sautter said to the crowd.

Her son, Jayden Miller, was 19 when he died. He had recently graduated, found a job and moved into his own apartment.

“He did not want to die. He had plans for his future,” Sautter said.

The pill Jayden had taken, believing it was Percocet, was actually fentanyl.

Sautter had not been aware of the dangers of fentanyl and how it could be disguised as something else, ultimately causing an accidental poisoning like it did in her son’s case.

Had she known, she said, she would have expressed those dangers to her children, providing them with more education on the topic.

“Before Jayden passed, when he was in the hospital, I spent every night in there with him. I made a promise to him that I was going to make it my mission to warn other parents, other kids and our community about the dangers of fentanyl poisoning,” Sautter said. “I had to do that for him. He did not know what fentanyl was and had he had known what it was and there was potential it was in that pill, I know for a fact he would not have taken it.”

Maintaining open dialogue with children and staying connected is one way parents can help prevent substance abuse disorders from developing, said panel moderator Don Adamski

Spreading the word and helping young people and families recognize the dangers of substance abuse early is one of the reasons Dr. Jim North, a family practice physician and ProMedica substance abuse expert, wanted to participate in the panel.

“Treatment is one thing. There are amazing people working hard in the treatment field, but if we can help recognize it and prevent it, that’s even better,” North said.

If a family wants more information or support, it is important they reach out to a qualified expert, North said. He recommends they turn to their family physician just to get the conversation going.

“The most important thing we can do with our kids is be open and honest with them about the risks and build that relationship with them that allows them to feel comfortable talking to us as parents. Ultimately, we need to know what’s going on, and you can’t do that in an adversarial relationship. There needs to be trust.”

Building trust with the students and welcoming age-appropriate conversations on the topic of drug abuse is exactly what Abby Schroeder does. As the prevention and community outreach coordinator for the Maumee Police Division, Schroeder speaks to students, starting in first grade, about a variety of topics.

She discusses how to stay safe and avoid potentially harmful products in the home, like household cleaners, with the younger students, and substance abuse and dating violence with the older students.

“If your youths come to you with a question, I see it get dismissed sometimes, but they need to know … be honest with them,” Schroeder advised parents and guardians.

It’s hard for families to manage something like substance abuse on their own, so it’s important to seek help from resources in the community whenever possible.

“Not a single one of us is an absolute expert in everything,” said Maumee Middle School principal Angie Wojcik. “Collectively, we can support our kids and families so much better.”

Seeking support within the community, like from the Maumee Police Division, can also be helpful, added Police Chief Josh Sprow.

Parents or guardians who have questions or concerns about something they’ve found among teens’ belongings should research further or reach out to the police.

Additionally, parents should know that drug abuse exists here in the community. According to Sprow, part of the reason Maumee received a $600,000 grant through the Comprehensive Opioid Stimulant and Substance Abuse Program, which provides the expertise of Schroeder as a licensed social worker is because the city had the highest per-capita overdose death rate in Northwest Ohio at the time of writing the grant.

“The problem is here,” Sprow affirmed.

Part of the growing problem is the increasing potency of drugs. According to Maumee Fire & EMS Deputy Chief Jim Dusseau, over his decades of experience, he has seen the amount of naloxone required to reverse an overdose increase significantly, from .3 milligrams to nearly 20 milligrams now in some cases.

“There is no immunity, there is no certain group this affects. It’s a widespread epidemic we’re working with … it can affect anybody,” Dusseau said, which is why it must be taken seriously.

At the end of the day, it’s important that families be willing to have the hard conversations and seek help, before it reaches a potentially life-altering stage, the panelists agreed.

“There are a lot of people that think this won’t happen to them … it absolutely can. It happens all the time to the unsuspecting. Stay vigilant. Stay on top of the information and use the resources that are out there,” Sautter recommended.

Also at the event were many local community organizations and businesses offering additional resources and expertise to families. 

Those included at the event were Arrowhead Behavioral Health, Brightview Health of Maumee, Calvary Church, Charlie Health, First Pres Maumee Student Programs, Ironwood Center, Lucas County Health Department and the Lucas County Opiate Coalition, Lutheran Social Services of Northwestern Ohio, Maumee Fire & EMS, Maumee United Methodist Youth Programs, Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Lucas County, Spring Green Education Foundation and Vital Health.

The event was also supported by Maumee first responders and the Maumee Substance Abuse Intervention League.

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