In recent years, Ohio has suffered from a harrowing epidemic that affects men and women of all backgrounds—the epidemic of substance abuse and addiction. In 2013, one person died every four hours in Ohio due to a drug overdose, leading to a trend in drug use that has yet to completely subside. The state has been hard at work on measures to prevent substance abuse, decrease the amount of overdose deaths, and establish rehabilitation resources for the drug addicted. However, it is evident that there is more work to be done.

That’s why I was proud to join Attorney General Mike DeWine and Senate President Keith Faber this week to announce the creation of the Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education. The committee will be made up of a variety of advocates: superintendents and leaders from school districts across the state, state government leaders, members from law enforcement, and experts from state agencies on education and mental health and addiction services.

The goal of this committee is to assess where the state is at in regards to drug prevention, and from that research, create a comprehensive plan for drug prevention education in grades kindergarten through high school. While there are already a number of similar programs throughout the state, this committee will study and address the drug abuse epidemic from a holistic standpoint to establish evidenced-based education that is both age-appropriate and age-specific for our children.

This study committee will not put an altogether stop to the drug abuse and overdose deaths our communities experience every day, but it will allow the state to get in front of the problem in order to protect our future generations. We must do everything in our power as state and community leaders to equip our children with accurate information and facts about this debilitating epidemic. Substance abuse, and particularly opiate use, does not discriminate. It is pervasive, affecting every county across Ohio, from rural communities to the suburbs, from the young to the old.

It is important to start with our kids, and at an early age, in educating them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Without opening this door for discussion—at school, at home, at sporting events—we risk the future of our state as the epidemic will continue to destroy families and communities. Fighting this scourge will take combined efforts and resources and involves an array of approaches, focused on both education and rehabilitation. I am hopeful that the Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention will succeed in finding a path towards effective prevention education, protecting the health and wellbeing of Ohio’s future.

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