Cara Treece, left, and Jamie Farrell lead the high school group in a breakout session during a youth-led prevention initiative summit at Blanchard Valley Hospital. Various projects related to keeping teens off drugs are taking shape throughout the county, including an increase in social opportunities to help reduce problem behaviors. Youth and teens are being tapped to give their input. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

By SARA ARTHURS
STAFF WRITER

There aren’t many teens in treatment for substance abuse, compared to adults. But area professionals are working to ensure help is there should they need it.

They’re also inviting teens themselves to create a space where they can hang out with friends and learn important life skills — all without drugs.

The Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services and its counterparts serving Putnam County as well as Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties have, together, received a $170,000 grant for two years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio will enforce the Youth Treatment-Implementation Grant in partnership with other agencies including Pathways Counseling Center, Focus, and local Family First Councils.

The goal is identification and early intervention, said Jodi Knouff, director of clinical services for Family Resource Center.

Precia Stuby, executive director of the Hancock County ADAMHS board, said the grant allows for children’s treatment that has never before been available in this community.

Professionals have worked to get treatment options in place for adults, but many people caught up in the epidemic have children, and the next wave of those needing care are expected to be younger, Stuby said. The grant application was written so the agencies will be prepared if that wave of youths needing treatment does hit, she said.

Clinical staff are being trained in motivational interviewing, intended to help build people’s intrinsic desire to change. They will also offer medication-assisted treatment for youth.

And one goal is to improve screening so young people who need substance abuse treatment can get to it more readily.

Director of Prevention and Early Intervention Meagan McBride Klein said there are risk factors for teen drug use, but “nobody is immune.” You might believe it wouldn’t happen in a particular home, or to children of a high-income family.

Teens may be high-functioning and do well academically, but “a lot of times it starts with stress,” McBride Klein said. Students feel they need to study more, or work harder. It’s a “mixture of stress and trauma” that leads youth to use, she said.

The longer a person has an addiction, the harder it is to overcome it, McBride Klein. This is both because of habits that form, and because of the chemistry involved. So intervening at a young age may make a difference.

She said they’re trying to shift the conversation from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What can we teach you? What skills can we give you?”

The grant will include creating a space for young people to be social, away from drugs.

Organizers are partnering with Focus, a nonprofit recovery community offering activities, classes and a meeting place for people in recovery from mental health, addiction or trauma issues.

Family Resource Center offices are in a former school, and an advisory board of teens will be creating the space in the former gym.

“The hope is that it’s going to be very much like what we have here for adults” but for youth, said Ellyn Schmiesing, executive director of Focus. That is, a place where “any young person can come for any reason,” including those with mental health or substance use diagnoses, but also those without them.

The space will be a “safe haven” where children can hang out, participate in programs and have “fun, cool stuff to do.” The hope is they’ll also learn some new skills and gain confidence — so as they head into adult life they have a “strong, stable foundation from which to grow.”

Schmiesing said one of the reasons Focus works is because it is designed, led by and administered by “people with lived experience, people who get it.” With teens, “the same principle applies,” she said.

Focus and Family Resource Center hope to launch the new teen space sometime this summer.

Anyone wishing to get involved can contact Focus at 419-423-5071.

Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs
Twitter: @swarthurs


Socializing without substance use

By SARA ARTHURS
STAFF WRITER

Local youths educated each other on their efforts to prevent drug use at the recent youth-led prevention initiative summit at Blanchard Valley Hospital.

Schools throughout Hancock County received grant funding through the Marathon Classic, which awarded the Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services $32,000 to fund a youth-led prevention initiative. Its founded on the premise that increasing social opportunities will help reduce problem behaviors, including not just substance use but bullying and teen pregnancy, said Zach Thomas, director of wellness and education for the ADAMHS board.

The Hancock County Community Partnership vetted each schools proposal for use of the funds, to make sure they were in line with what research showed actually helps with prevention.

On Friday, the students gave presentations about the projects theyd used the funding toward. One of the goals was to create environments where the students could be social without using substances.

Students at Chamberlin Hill made cards and care packages for residents of Tree Line, a residential drug treatment center. The fronts of the cards had messages like You Are Enough and included happy pictures like suns, flowers and smiley faces. Messages inside had statements like I believe in you and You are doing great. The care packages included mints, lotion and fleece blankets.

One boy said the students had been a little scared to address the Tree Line residents. But their reactions? They had a lot of smiles.

Students at Findlay High School are organizing a carnival-themed after-prom event for Saturday. One girl involved in organizing said the event is also open to students who are not actually going to prom because the goal is to encourage them not to do drugs.

Students at Glenwood Middle School organized mindfulness activities and implemented yoga in sixth- and seventh-grade classrooms. One sixth-grader said he made sensory bottles and stress balls because I dont want anyone to have anger or get stressed about things. You can shake up the sensory bottle and concentrate on it for one minute, or use the stress balls to combat anger. But dont squeeze it too hard or it might break, he said.

We were excited that we saw a wide variety of projects, Thomas said after the presentations.

And, he said, the ideas came from youths themselves, who have a better perspective than adults on what might appeal to them.

He said it was exciting to hear the children listen to each others ideas and say things like Oh, lets try that next year!

The project is also funded for next year.

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