Northeast Ohio Community Gathers for “The Effects of Heroin: A JMC Conversation”
In 2014, Ohio was ranked second in the nation for drug overdose deaths. To educate Kent State and the surrounding community about the issue and fight this growing epidemic, Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the JMC Student Voice Team co-hosted a panel discussion, “The Effects of Heroin: A JMC Conversation.”
The event was held in the FirstEnergy Auditorium (Room 340 Franklin Hall) Thursday, Oct. 20 from 6-8 p.m. Those in attendance included four panelists, Kent State students, faculty, staff and local community members, most of whom knew someone affected by heroin.
“Heroin and the negative effects of heroin have always been a part of our society, but it was a hidden part of the society. Now it’s more open and it’s affecting more people,” said panelist Maureen Keating, chemical dependency counselor at Kent State.
JMC assistant professor Stephanie Smith moderated the discussion and began by asking what words come to mind when attendees hear the word heroin. The conversation soon progressed to personal stories of family members, friends and loved ones who suffer from addiction.
“When I picked up when I was 11, I was searching,” panelist and recovering heroin addict Jarrod Pyle said. “But what I struggle with is coping with my life, and that’s why it’s so crucial that we live in a community that supports us.”
Pyle is now an opiate specific treatment counselor at Oriana House in Akron, Ohio.
From there, the conversation shifted to the audience’s role as advocates for those who struggle with addiction. Panelist Greg McNeil, a father who lost his son to heroin last year, gave the analogy that fighting addiction is like climbing Mount Everest; it impossible to do alone and it takes a team of people who put in extensive effort to succceed. Addicts need a committed, positive support system that will hold them accountable in their road to recovery.
In response to his son’s death, McNeil created Cover2 Resources, an educational foundation that provides alternative options to opioid pain relievers. Through his organization, he’s encouraged and empowered people as they support loved ones in their lives who struggle with addiction.
Panelist Jennifer Kulics, dean of students and associate vice president for Kent State’s Division of Student Affairs offered insight into Kent State’s commitment to support those who struggle with addiction. The university has resources like the DeWeese Health Center and on campus support groups, like Flashes for Recovery.
The audience also discussed red-flag behaviors like compromised morals and rash decisions that could be indicators of addiction and encouraged each other to address those signs, focusing on the root cause of addition rather than addiction itself.
“Instead of asking why do we have addiction, ask why is this pain so incredible that people make choices to use substances?” Keating said.