News Article Details

Shawnee State and Portsmouth City Schools host forum on drugs and mental health

The Portsmouth Daily Times - 4/3/2017

April 03--Shawnee State University (SSU) in conjunction with Portsmouth City School district hosted a Spring Education Forum panel on drugs and mental health issues at Portsmouth High School.

The panel was hosted in a town hall format and moderated by Dr. Robert Radway of the Southeast Ohio Teacher Development Collaborative (SEO-TDC).

SEO-TDC includes Marietta College, The University of Rio Grande, Shawnee State University, Muskingum University and Ohio University.

Panel representatives included experts from education, mental health associates, community organizations, along with state and regional agencies and government.

Participants included, Representative Robert Sprague from the Ohio House of Representatives, Scioto County Judge Alan Lemons, Paige Robbins the Director of Scioto County Jobs and Family Services, South Central Educational Service Center Assistant Superintendent Scott Holstein, Anna Settle from SSU Counseling Services, Bloom-Vernon Schools Guidance Counselor Heidi Holstein, Valley Local School Teacher Cathy Martin, Loretta Harvey from SSU's Department of Teacher Education, Associate Vice Chancellor of P-16 Initiatives Ohio Department of Higher Education Brenda Haas, Ellen Adornetto of the Ohio Educator Association and Kevin Lorson the Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance President, Professor and Physical Education Director for Wright State University.

Comments used from the panel will be complied and analyzed alongside other SEO-TDC forums on the same subject. These documents will be used to dictate new curriculum and education standards for implementing drug prevention programs in schools.

Panel members provided insight into how addiction impacts the school system and the realities of the opiate and heroin epidemic in Southern Ohio.

Judge Alan Lemons stated that so far in 2017, 36 children were removed from homes in Scioto County. Thirty two cases directly related to drug abuse while the other four cases had indirect relations to drug abuse. Overall, 50 percent of children removed from homes state-wide are removed due to drug-related issues.

Teacher Cathy Martin reported that there has been a drastic increase in children enrolled and reported as being born addicted to a substance.

"About 20 percent of the student body is reported to us at registration by their parents, grandparents, or their guardians as having been born addicted. So if we're looking at a classroom of 20, that's at least four children, sometimes more, who went through that whole withdraw process. Some have gone to children's hospitals and needed months of therapy and assistance," said Mullins. "These children are coming to us with significant difficulties learning and paying attention, problems with logic and reasoning and I know that's difficult for any 5 or 6 year old, but we see it more pronounced in these children. It has certainly increased over the 22 years that I've taught. When I first started, we would see maybe one or two children in the whole grade-level that you would suspect, but now we're seeing four or five in each class."

The main concern raised by the panel was prevalent lack of funding and over-exhaustion of teachers in schools already. Implementing new curriculum without the necessary resources may not be effective.

"You've got to educate the educators and make sure that they have the proper resources because this is such an overwhelming thing. I know that counselors and teachers have different roles, but we share in our compassion for people," said SSU Counselor Anna Settle. That's a lot to take on sometimes and compassion fatigue is a real thing."

Barbara Haas, Kevin Lorson and Robert Sprague expounded the vision for state-wide standards and legislation that will help direct teachers in assisting their students who come from homes where drugs are abused, or may be abusing drugs themselves. Other members of the panel raised the question of teaching children to go against their parents, since many of the drug-related problems stem from behaviors observed at home.

"We're working on this as fast as we can," said Kevin Lorson. "We should have a draft developed in June. We're trying to make this a skill-based curriculum you don't have to know every single effect of every drug. We're trying to build on skills that teachers already have, you know how to teach your kids how to make good decisions and we're going to build on social-emotion learning."

Representative Robert Sprague also suggested implementing drug-intervention specialists in school districts to help take the pressure off teachers.

While new legislation and standards regarding drug-abuse and educational standards are still being explored, South Central ESC Assistant Superintendent Scott Holstein urged the visiting community members to get involved and reminded them not to give up in fighting the addiction problem in the area.

"We can't give up. These kids want our help and they need our help, we're the ones who can make a difference, it's hard, but don't give up," said Holstein.

Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook "Ciara Conley -- Daily Times," and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.

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