Northeast Ohio will have Ohio's first chapter of NOPE (Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Overdose) in an effort to battle the epidemic of drug addiction and overdose deaths.
The group is now seeking family members and individuals from the area who have experienced the loss of a loved one due to overdose to volunteer to go through training and share their stories.
Dr. Jeffrey Hartmann, principal at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, announced at the Oct. 24 Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education meeting that the school district will be the fiscal agent for the area NOPE chapter. Hartmann said that designation would now allow the chapter to accept donations for support, arrange training for volunteers and begin the process of presenting the NOPE message to area schools and organizations.
"Drug overdoses continue to claim lives in our community, and we know now more than ever that our students need to understand just how destructive and devastating drug abuse can be," Hartmann has said.
The NOPE Task Force was started in Florida in 2004 and stresses "Just one time could kill you" and "Be a Hero -- Tell Someone" in its presentations. NOPE's mission is to diminish the frequency and impact of overdose death through community education, family support and purposeful advocacy. A cornerstone of that mission is personal, high impact presentations delivered to middle and high school students that leverage bystanders to call for help to save the lives of their peers.
Following virtually every presentation, a number of students seek help either for themselves or someone they know, say NOPE representatives.
Assemblies by a NOPE chapter from Pennsylvania were presented to students at SMFHS and Kimpton Middle School on Oct. 11. A program for parents took place that evening at SMFHS.
At the local presentations, students heard personal stories from a mother, a grandmother and a younger sister who were all affected by a family member's death from overdose. More than 25 almost life-size photos of young people who have died from accidental overdoses of heroin, prescription medicines and alcohol lined the stages.
"While the messaging is important, NOPE also has room for everyone," said Hartmann. "For some families, it's enough to have a picture of their loved one on stage. For others, they want to speak with students. Some want to speak with parents. Others are happy to coordinate and provide technical support."
Hartmann said creating the Northeast Ohio chapter of NOPE will help to unify the many efforts by communities and schools throughout the area to bring the message and combat the epidemic.
"This is not just a Stow or Summit County thing -- it's a regional thing," Hartmann stressed. "Other communities have people to get involved . . . people have wanted to get involved but at the time, there wasn't anything in place." He has contacted representatives from other school districts in Summit, Medina and Portage counties.
A Youth2Youth group was recently formed at SMFHS, "with the goal of creating sustained prevention efforts throughout the district. These could look like positive choices lessons at the elementary level, arming kids with the right information at the high school level," said Hartmann.
At Kimpton, like other middle schools in the area, students can participate in Project Panda, a prevention education and outreach program centralized in Akron. Its main focus is "to spread the message about the dangers of ATOD (alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs) and to share ways to have fun without using dangerous substances," according to its website.
Hartmann said the district is also contracting with Community Health Services for three hours each week for a drug and alcohol counselor to serve as referral and assessment resource. This would enable CHS to see current clients on campus, reducing the among of school time missed.
Because the SMF school district has accepted the fiscal agent status, financial donations and support from community groups, community members and government entities can now be accepted. Checks can be made to "SMFCSD" or "SMFHS" with NOPE in the memo line. Donations are tax deductible.
For more information or to volunteer for training, contact Hartmann at 330-689-05201 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on NOPE, visit its national website at www.nopetaskforce.org.