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Mother fights for drug awareness

“Every single person in this community has a responsibility to spread the word.”

That’s the message Danielle Smoot brought to a recent Southeast Neighborhood Association meeting in Springfield.

And she’s been spreading that word since her 16-year old son, Cole, died in February 2011 from a prescription drug overdose.

Smoot told the group’s members that “what happened to Cole is happening all over the United States and it’s happening every day.”

Two other students brought a shoebox full of prescription drugs stolen from the home of a cancer patient to Tecumseh High School and gave those drugs to classmates. Cole took one pill in the afternoon and became sick that evening.

He was taken to the emergency room and admitted he had taken Methadone. Smoot says Cole was treated, the doctor said he was out of danger and released him. Cole went home and slept throughout the next day. When she went to wake him up, Smoot says she noticed a bruise on his foot, his lips were blue and he was pale. Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and Cole was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Prior to his death, Cole had taken honors classes, was member of the Junior Air Force ROTC unit at school and was an athlete in good shape. Smoot pointed out, “we had multiple talks about drugs (with Cole), he knew the dangers, but he didn’t think it would happen to him.”

Smoot said the boy who gave Cole the drug was tried as a juvenile and is now in college, training to become a drug counselor.

“He’s not a bad kid, he made a bad decision,” she said. “He has to live with (what he did), and so do all the other students who didn’t report it.”

Since the death of her son, Smoot has dedicated herself to warning others about the dangers of prescription drugs. She pointedly asked the audience if they had medications at their home and if they were properly stored. People are breaking into homes and stealing prescriptions drugs, she said.

“It’s not just a teen problem, it’s a community problem,” she said.

According to Smoot, four people die every day in Ohio from drugs — three from prescription medications. About 70 percent of the drugs kids take come from family and friends. Nationwide, one in four high school students have tried prescription drugs. Locally, it’s one in five.

Some positive reaction has grown out of the tragedy. Working with law enforcement, the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, school and government officials, Family and Youth Initiatives, the Clark County Combined Health District and the Mental Health and Recovery Board, Smoot started “Cole’s Warriors,” to warn of the dangers of prescription drugs and to change school culture.

Tecumseh schools tightened its drug policies, she said, and programs are set up in all nine high schools in Clark County, along with voluntary testing in eight of those. Students sign a contract, agreeing to be randomly tested over four years, with results going only to their parents.

Students can also anonymously report information about drugs and incidents through the “Tip Submit” program operated by the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office and paid for by a portion of money seized from drug dealers plus other efforts.

And Smoot points out there are drop boxes for unneeded prescription drugs at the Clark County Public Safety Building, Springview Governmental Center, the sheriff’s New Carlisle substation, the Bethel Twp. Fire Station and the German Twp. hall.

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