“When I was 12 years old I lost my sister to heroin.”
There are three ways to approach substance abuse: prevention, intervention, and treatment and recovery. Currently, Champaign County is battling the opioid crisis that has invaded Ohio, from small towns like North Lewisburg and Mechanicsburg, to large towns and cities like Chillicothe and Dayton. Substance abuse and addiction are not lost causes; there are numerous agencies across the state, and in each county, that fight the good fight whether to keep adolescents from using, intervene when abusers reach rock bottom, or provide resources for the recovering addict to keep him from using again.
In Champaign County, Changing Habits and Making Positive Strides, or CHAMPS, is a group of adolescents and young adults who gather each week to address the needs of young people in our rural community.
As a part of the Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Services Board of Logan and Champaign Counties and the Drug Free Youth Coalition and the Opiate Task Force, this group of teens is committed to empowering young people. Prevention is one focus of the group led by Jessica Doggett, but recovery is also a part of the members’ work. “We currently have a very diverse group, with a lot of young kids. Prevention is part of what we work on, but we also have members who are in recovery.”
The group meets every Monday night from 6 to 8 p.m. Anyone ages 12-21 is welcome to attend.
One long-time member is Emma Lockwood, who at the at the age of 12 lost her older sister Zoey to a heroin overdose. After Zoey died, Emma knew that she wanted to get involved with prevention of substance abuse. She contacted Stacey Logwood, who is the Director of Community Involvement for Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Services Board of Logan and Champaign Counties.
Since then, Emma, now 19, has helped CHAMPS – once called Youth Advisory Council or YAC – evolve and grow as a group committed to leading her peers in prevention within the county. Last year, Emma attended the Community Anti-Drug Coalition America national conference in Las Vegas. Emma, along with members nine other youth and three adults, created a logic model that they brought home with them to implement in Champaign County.
Using the logic model, CHAMPS partnered with Urbana Youth Sports and created policy that addresses the use of alcohol or tobacco at sporting events. Because of their work, the youth athletic fields at the Urbana Park now have signs that prohibit the use of alcohol and tobacco by adults.
“We really wanted to address the social use of these substances by adults while in the presence of adolescents,” CHAMPS director Jessica Doggett says. “We have gotten really positive feedback from Urbana Youth Sports.”
The success of the partnership between CHAMPS and Urbana Youth Sports is a model that the group hopes to replicate in other communities in Champaign County.
The work done by the group relies heavily on training and the development of skills for members. The current diverse group of younger members requires leadership training, and older members need the opportunity to take their skills to the next level.
Each of these members can cite the good that comes from the group. Olivia, age 18, feels that CHAMPS is “making a positive impact on the youth in the community” and feels her leadership skills are improved by being a part of the group.
CHAMPS is holding an event to help raise funds to send members to Ohio Teen Institute and Youth to Youth leadership conferences. A spaghetti dinner fundraiser will be held on Feb. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the River of Life Church.
For $20, diners will get spaghetti and sauce, a salad, roll, and dessert. Most of the food was donated by local businesses and organizations, including Clark’s Market and the Caring Kitchen. There will also be a silent auction with items such as COSI tickets, Reds tickets, spa gift baskets, Marie’s Candy, and homemade gourmet cheesecakes up for bid. For more information about this fundraiser, or to learn more about CHAMPS, call 937-652-2646.