News 11 Investigation -- Saving Our Children - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

News 11 Investigation -- Saving Our Children

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By Jerry Anderson - email | bio

Posted by Nick Dutton - email

SYLVANIA, Ohio (WTOL) - Kids in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan are using drugs in vast numbers. If you don't believe it, please read this article story. It could save your child or a child you know.

This story of teen drug abuse isn't just about the problem, but about a community's effort to reach kids.

This is what marijuana and cocaine did to former teen drug abuser Alyse. "I lost everything. I was a completely different person. Cutting myself, hating myself, wanting to kill myself, using, sleeping, not caring about anything."

However, Alyse was an above-average student, comfortable suburbanite and high-school cheerleader who liked helping people. That isn't the image most folks have of teen drug abusers.

Her mom Pam says her daughter's personality changed and Alyse was becoming a very dangerous stranger. She admits she locked herself in her room because she feared her daughter.

"There were times I would tell her I was going to kill her because I was mad at myself. I was taking it out on other people," said Alyse.

Sylvania Schools' Drug Intervention Coordinator Bill Geha says drug abuse is much worse than people think. He knows the drug problem is everywhere. "I would bet you that some high school football teams, sports teams, couldn't field their team because they would violate their code of conduct."

Most parents don't realize their kids could find drugs by simply walking down any hallway in their school.

Drug use these days still starts with alcohol and marijuana. "There's cocaine, marijuana, heroine, OxyContin is a big, big one. You can shoot it, you can snort it you can take it," said Alyse. Vicodin, Percocet and even Robitussin are also easily obtained.

While this story takes place in Sylvania, kids and drug use takes place in cities, suburbia and rural America.

What does make this story different is how Sylvania brought together help and support for kids and families struggling with substance abuse.

Geha says it involves the parents and schools, but also the cops and courts and social service agencies. They all work toward common goals.

He says their major goal is sobriety and to help heal the family. Ultimately, he aims to give the kids freedom from a captor masquerading as a friend.

"Sometimes, the drug becomes their best friend. They'll do anything for their friend. They'll lie for them, they'll steal for them," said Geha.

There are also student assistance teams in each school in Sylvania to identify users not for punishment, but for help.

Social services agencies provide counseling; diversion programs help students work on life skills and goal-setting. Successful completion can wipe away an arrest record.

Alyse finally went through rehab, is 2 years clean and tells student abusers. "Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't blame yourself," she says.

And from her mom to other parents: "Don't be ashamed to admit that it is happening... and secondly, don't ever, ever give up on your kids," says Pam.

Pam credits Geha with saving her daughter's life, but the job is bigger than one man. In Sylvania, the journey of hope ends with more success stories by a community that cares.

Geha says there are many signs this approach is working, although he admits it's not perfect. They're also glad to share what they're doing with other communities. Call 419-824-8552 for more information.

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