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Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office Hosts High School Students for Heroin Summit

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Christopher Harris, (216) 443-7157

Gilson, Budish, and partners team up to have an open conversation about the #HeroinCrisis

CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson today, along with County Executive Armond Budish and various partners, held their Student Leadership Summit: Heroin Crisis and Our Future.

“I commend Dr. Gilson and our panel of experts for putting this summit together, and I thank the teachers and students for providing us with information on how we can work together to reach the youth about the dangers of heroin,” said County Executive Budish. “Our fight against the epidemic will not stop here. As we continue our efforts through education and treatment, I ask that our residents keep the conversation ongoing so that we can continue to try and save lives together.”

Over 70 high school students and chaperones from public, private, and trade schools in Cuyahoga County gathered at the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office to have an open discussion about the heroin epidemic. The summit was specifically designed to educate students, to address stigmas that prevent people from getting help, and learn directly from students themselves on how we can better reach them.

“We are excited to host this event. With the support of Executive Budish, the Medical Examiner's Office has continued to explore ways to counter the heroin epidemic in our community,” said Dr. Gilson. “Our studies have shown that most of the heroin and fentanyl overdose victims in our county complete their education around the high school level. We are collaborating with student leaders at a variety of high schools to transmit a message that will hopefully reach a wider audience and prevent overdoses and other negative consequences of drug abuse by addressing the issue at a much earlier point in the cycle of addiction.”

Discussing the heroin epidemic is only half the battle. The panel of experts challenged each school in attendance, to take what they’ve learned and discussed, and share it with their community. Students were challenged to create content for their school newspapers and social media pages, using the #HeroinCrisis hashtag.

Students shared their ideas, questions, and knowledge on the growing heroin epidemic to a panel of experts, including:

  • Dr. Thomas Gilson, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner
  • Katie Boland, ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County External Affairs Officer
  • Aaron Marks, Heroin and Opiate Task Force Spokesman
  • Monica Robins, WKYC Senior Health Correspondent
  • Jaclyn Brandt, Robby’s Voice Vice President

“Addiction and mental illness are diagnosable and treatable brain diseases,”
said William M. Denihan, Chief Executive Officer of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County. “This tragic heroin epidemic in our community and in the United States doesn’t discriminate on sex, occupation, community or age. This disease doesn’t care if you are 12 or 65 years old. It is important to engage with youth to help prevent alcohol and drug use while teaching them the resources for treatment and recovery.”

The summit was recognized by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as an official event for National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) - January 25–31, 2016. Additionally, local media partners WKYC & Northeast Ohio Media Group (cleveland.com) dedicated live-stream/live-tweet media resources for the event to expand the #HeroinCrisis conversation throughout social media.

“I believe the importance of keeping an open dialogue and revealing the dangers of this drug to our youth is vital to spreading the word and affecting change,” said Heather Kava, Valley Forge High School Intervention Specialist. “Adults and caregivers can preach all they'd like about the dangers of drugs but it is when the teenagers and kids believe the danger to be present, that positive changes may begin happening.”