NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio – On Tuesday, a group of high school students found themselves on the front line of the war on heroin.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol unveiled a new program called “5 Minutes for Life” that uses student leaders in local schools to spread awareness.
At North Olmsted High School, approximately 50 students were chosen to participate in the program.
“You know, to me that’s pretty impressive,” said Lt. Antonio Matos from the Cleveland Metro Post. “If that’s the way you guys are thought of, so that’s why we’re excited to be reaching out to you guys first; we think you can be the leaders in Cuyahoga County.”
Lt. Matos has a challenge for the students; he wants five minutes of their time to make a lifelong difference.
He talked about the heroin epidemic in Ohio in hopes that the students will take the message out into the halls at North Olmsted High School, where Officer Jim Carbone has been a resource officer for 13 years.
“When you come to North Olmsted High School, this is like a family here, so there’s many outlets and it’s a safe zone and it’s a comfortable zone for kids to come into and reach out to somebody,” said Officer Carbone.
Beau Bilinsky is a senior who knows the five-minute course could make a difference for the rest of someone’s life. “These kids, they’re from all walks of life. You’ve got your artists; you have the singers, dancers, athletes, no matter what it is, all these kids are very involved in school,” said Beau.
FOX 8 I-Team Reporter Bill Sheil has been reporting on how heroin hits home in Northeast Ohio where overdoses surpassed car crashes as a leading cause of death.
Law enforcement officials said users are starting young. According to the State Highway Patrol, one in five teens abuse prescription medications that are not prescribed to them and that can lead to further problems.
Law enforcement authorities also provided these statistics:
**Drug overdoses have now surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S.
**Annually, 2,500 Ohioans ages 12 to 20 are admitted for alcohol treatment.
**In 2010, troopers seized 28,000 opiate pills and nearly 18 pounds of heroin. In 2013, that number rose to nearly 54,000 opiate pills and 100 pounds of heroin.
“We recognize that these problems and challenges are here for the youth. We want to keep them safe so we look for programs like this to inform and we’re lucky that we’ve got great resources that help us do that,” said Jeff Stanton, the principal of North Olmsted High School.
“It’s really shocking, I mean, I can’t believe it’s affecting our community so much. It shouldn't be like that,” said Cat Stolar, a senior.
This program is a new priority for the Ohio State Highway Patrol and all 58 patrol posts.
By going into each school, they hope to make a difference to curb the heroin epidemic.