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Heroin epidemic topic of school summit

New Carlisle mom hopes son’s overdose will raise awareness.

Cole Smoot was a 16-year-old high school honor student and wrestler who died of an overdose in 2011 when he took one tablet of prescription methadone at Tecumseh High School in New Carlisle.

Marin Riggs slipped into heroin addiction as a teen, went to rehab twice, relapsed twice and died of a heroin overdose at age 20 in 2012 in suburban Columbus.

Their grieving mothers — Danielle Smoot and Heidi Riggs — are talking about their family tragedies in the hope that more parents won’t be standing in their shoes tomorrow.

“There is nothing worse than waking up every day as a mother without her child,” Smoot told a group of law enforcement and education officials Tuesday at a heroin summit at Worthington Kilbourne High School near Columbus.

Roughly 36 of the state’s highest performing school districts, including Kettering, sent representatives to the summit to gain insight on strategies for combating the heroin epidemic in their communities.

Smoot outlined a program named Cole’s Warriors after her son. The group installed drug drop boxes at police and sheriff’s stations, started a mobile phone app that allows kids to send anonymous tips to the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, and began a voluntary, random drug testing program that is used in nine schools in Clark County.

Attorney General Mike DeWine told the group that buying heroin is as cheap and easy has having a pizza delivered.

“It could be anybody’s family,” he said. “If any community thinks they don’t have this problem, they’re wrong.”

Gov. John Kasich said school teachers can have enormous influence over students’ lives and may be able to steer them away from drug abuse. “Remember: the Lord put you in these positions,” he said. “If you are standing up for the life a child, you will be honored forever.”

After cracking down on “pill mills” that over-prescribed opiates, the Kasich administration has since seen a spike in heroin use and overdoses. Kasich earlier this year began public awareness programs that include “Five Minutes for Life” and “Start Talking” to send anti-drug messages to school age children.

But Democrats criticized Kasich and DeWine’s efforts as “anemic” and called on the Republicans to put up more money for local services that address drug addiction problems.

”It’s hypocritical for the Governor to speak at a summit on heroin abuse when for years he cut millions to police and social services, ignoring a problem that his own Department of Health said was foreseeable,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, who is Kasich’s likely Democratic opponent in the governor’s race this fall.

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