Perspective from unexpected places

By Cliff Rosenberger - Contributing Columnist

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a meeting that can only be described as poignant and eye-opening.

A small group of brave young women from Waverly City Schools made the long trip to the Statehouse from Pike County to share their experiences and insight regarding Ohio’s opioid crisis. We all know that heroin and prescription drug abuse is our most pressing issue.

But to hear the way these students are affected in their daily lives by the infiltration of addiction into their families and communities is both alarming and emotionally moving.

Listening to these teenagers — some as young as 13 — share their stories drove home the idea that in order to get in front of the drug epidemic, we have to protect our future generations from succumbing to its reach.

And these wise students discussed how working towards that objective requires a multifaceted approach to address clinical needs, community infrastructure, and more. With little to no family life at home, a greater community presence and support systems are of the utmost priority.

This meeting was a special chance to gain a better understanding of the real-world impact heroin and opioids have on Ohio’s youth. The Waverly students had an open floor to talk to me, Representative Scott Ryan, Governor Kasich, and his administration about their needs.

Many of the students have direct ties to those with addiction issues, which leads to their inadvertent care for younger siblings, food insecurity, limited access to extracurricular activities, and more.

In fact, a surprising number of the student population within Waverly City Schools are under supervision by someone other than their parents, often their grandparents. Without a support system, they leave school for a seemingly empty home with little opportunity to grow and develop life skills.

This is a real problem, as such circumstances can so often lead to more addiction. If we want to get a handle on the opioid epidemic and protect our future generations, we need to come together as one, all-encompassing support system.

From community organizations like Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) boards to our local churches, it’s crucial we do more for our youth.

They’re struggling and they need more than just money invested in the issue, they need our time, one-on-one counseling, and access to everyday necessities like reliable transportation. They deserve the opportunity to be a kid, and more importantly, they deserve a future.

After our meeting, I left feeling like I was the student instead of the group of young women who taught me so much about their challenges.

This issue, this gap in support and assistance that exists so prevalently in the lives of our youth affected by drugs and addiction, is a high priority to me.

With more work and a partnership with the Governor and his cabinet, and through discussions with my colleagues in the House and Senate, I know we can come up with solutions to address the tangible problems teenagers and children deal with every day in the face of this pervasive crisis.

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) represents the 91st District, which includes Clinton County.

By Cliff Rosenberger

Contributing Columnist