SPARK campaign kicks off

By BOBBY WARREN Staff Writer Published: September 13, 2016 4:00 AM on http://www.the-daily-record.com/local%20news/2016/09/13/spark-campaign-kicks-off

MILLERSBURG -- Seeing photos of a man and woman unconscious in the front seat of a car due to an overdose while their child was in the back seat served as further confirmation the commissioners' decision to focus on preventing youth from doing drugs was a smart move.

Commissioner Ray Eyler mentioned the photograph Monday during the public kick-off of the SPARK campaign, an effort to reach out to Holmes County youth and help them realize the positive options from which they can choose.

Commissioners Eyler, Rob Ault and Joe Miller have been longtime supporters of helping youth make positive decisions, and they have joined the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Wayne & Holmes Counties and other partners for the campaign.

There have been teasers about the SPARK campaign, and there was a presence during the Holmes County Fair. But, Monday marked the public kickoff of the countywide drug prevention program using a positive messaging, or asset-building, approach. The effort has recruited members from the faith-based, medical, health, education and addiction services communities.

A couple years ago, the commissioners tossed around the idea of doing something in hopes of moving forward with a proactive approach, Ault said.

A $5,000 grant from Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Success, provided a financial spark for the program.

Executive Director Judy Wortham Wood, Deputy Director Robert Smedley and program coordinator Vicky Hartzler were on hand for the kickoff, among others.

The partners settled on finding a way to share positive messages with the youth and not really bring up drugs and the dangers associated with them. The goal is to help each person discover what is the spark within, what is the passion.

Hartzler told the commissioners the program fits in well with what they have been working on previously.

Smedley said it is important to reach people when they are young. While some choose not to worry about children's decisions until they turn 18, Smedley said it was nonsense. Youth will be better served by understanding their lives have purpose. Feelings of "purposelessness" can be detrimental.

Miller likened the decisions youth make to health care. It is very expensive to provide it, and he estimated between 50-70 percent of those health-care costs are related to lifestyle choices. When it comes to drugs and poor decisions, "We have to take more responsibility," Miller said.

The Adverse Childhood Experience study pointed out what happens in early childhood affects a person's health over a lifetime, Wood said. So, it is good there are so many people involved, like the school districts in the county, social service agencies and others.

"It takes the community to come together," Ault said. "It's a problem, and we have to face it."

As the SPARK campaign moves forward, Hartzler said it will be important to have community members involved with the committees.

"We have to be good mentors," Eyler said.

"We've sort have been insulated" from societal problems, Miller said, "But, we won't be forever."

Now, the commissioners, Hartzler and community partners will have to figure out the best way to share the positive message and graphics pertaining to the SPARK campaign.

Reporter Bobby Warren can be reached at 330-287-1639 or bwarren@the-daily-record.com. He is @BobbyWarrenTDR on Twitter.

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