Event focuses on preventing drug deaths

After 16-year-old Cole Smoot died last year from taking a methadone pill given to him by a friend, his mother founded Cole’s Warriors to prevent other families from suffering similar tragedies.

Cole’s Warriors and Family Youth Initiatives will host the Call to Action Symposium on Wednesday, an event aimed at preventing prescription drug abuse. The symposium is from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott downtown and is designed to appeal to parents, professionals and students, Cole’s mother, Danielle Smoot, said.

Speakers will include Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery. Participants will learn about drugs and drug paraphernalia, and hear Cole’s story from Smoot and two of his friends.

Walk-ins are welcome, and free breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Cole’s Warriors is funded through the County Prosecutor’s Office with money confiscated from drug dealers and has implemented several programs in Clark County.

Drop boxes in three locations give residents the opportunity to safely dispose of unneeded medication. Many abused medications, including the pill that killed Cole, a Tecumseh High School student, are surplus medications from legitimate prescriptions, Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson said.

“I wholly believe with all of my heart that if we put these interdiction components into place in this community, we will prevent deaths,” said Wilson. “There is probably a pill that has been incinerated already that would have killed somebody.”

Fellow Tecumseh students knew about the drugs that Cole took but no one told educators, Smoot and Wilson said. To encourage students to alert officials to drug abuse, Cole’s Warriors purchased the TipSubmit anonymous reporting application for smartphones, which has already been used to remove drugs from local schools.

In Cole’s Warriors’ voluntary screening program, students sign a contract agreeing to be subject to random drug tests in exchange for eligibility in drawings for electronics confiscated from drug dealers. Only parents are given the results of the tests.

“At the end of the day, it’s the conversation that happens at the dinner table that is going to make the changes,” Smoot said.

Wilson hopes that the symposium will encourage parents to press for Cole’s Warriors programs at their schools.

“There’s not anyone who is immune,” Smoot said. “We need to empower the parents, to know that this is something that they have to fight, and give them the tools to do it.”

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