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Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor speaks to Newark Rotary Tuesday. O’Connor talked about the court’s role in fighting the opioid crisis in Ohio.(Photo: Maria DeVito/The Advocate)Buy PhotoNEWARK Ohio’s top judgeis calling forschools to provide more education on opioids.
While visiting Newark Rotary Tuesday afternoon Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor talked aboutthe court system’s role in fighting the statewide opioidcrisis. She said the criminal case load has increased significantly as a result of the epidemic.
“It seems so much of crime is related to drug abuse and opioids is the the current drug,” she said. “It’s almost mind boggling trying to keep up with the chemical concoctions that are made and distributed that people will put into their bodies.”
O’Connorsaid it’s surprising how young people are when they first start using drugs. She said drug abuse is not addressed in schools or at home adequately.
When there were major initiatives to reduce the numbers of smokers in the United States, it was a holistic approach, she said. Kids were taught that smoking was bad and they would share that message with the parents. has decreased dramatically because of the commercials, ads,literature and other informationthat explained the harmful effects of smoking. O’Connor said the concept was embedded into the minds of young children in school.
“We don’t have that with drugs,” she said. “It seems to be a topic that people do not talk about significantly and I think it has to be addressed in school. You’re never too young to start.”
O’Connor isn’t the only state official who thinks that way. Earlier this month Attorney General Mike DeWine, who plans to run for governor in 2018, said he would requireeducation on addiction for students in kindergarten through 12thgrade if elected governor.
Related:DeWine would require opioid education as governor
Newark City Schools Superintendent Doug Ute recognizes schools should play a vital rule in fighting the opiate crisis and the school district is hosting a community event Wednesday eveningat Newark High School.
More:Newark schools starting community talks on opiate abuse
But education on the harmful effects of drugs can’t just come from schools, O’Connor said. It needs to be talked about at home as well.
“So many kids say that they started out using drugs recreationally, and I don’t mean marijuana recreationally,” she said. “I mean they went to parties and somebody was passing around pills so they took it just to see what it was going to be like.”
The same happens with heroin. Children try it because they want to see what will happen.
“That message has to be delivered that it’s a death sentence,” O’Connor said.”You’re poisoning your body if you do that.”
O’Connor said one way courts can fight the opiate epidemic is by using drug courts, specialized court programs that target people with drug dependency problems. Licking County has drug courts through Judge David Branstool of the Licking County Common Pleas Court and Judge David Stansbury ofLicking County Municipal Court.
O’Connor said Ohio has more than 100 drugs courts, and the number is expect to increase.
“They are proven tool to utilize in the fight against drugs,” she said.
More:Guilt plagues Newark mom year after son’s heroin overdoseMore information:Want to learn more about the opiate crisis in Licking County? Newark City Schools is hosting an event Wednesday night to discuss what can be done.