Grand Futures: More than 200 students in Routt County affected by overdose
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As part of Routt County International Overdose Awareness Day events Aug. 31, local nonprofits encouraged members of the community to come together to help de-stigmatize overdose and addiction and share how many community members have been affected in some way by overdose.
As part of the effort, poster boards were made available for middle and high school students in Hayden, Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs to participate. What organizers found was an overwhelming number of students — more than 200 — who’ve been impacted by overdose.
According to the Center for Disease Control, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, and SAMHSA reports roughly one in eight children in the U.S. are currently living in a household with at least one parent who has a substance use disorder. Additionally, according to SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Barometer, approximately 5,000 youth younger than 21 die as a result of underage drinking each year, usually associated with binge drinking resulting in alcohol overdose.
The impact of overdose on our nation’s youth cannot be overlooked. With 200 students impacted by overdoses in Routt County, it begs the question … what are the societal impacts of addiction and overdose, and what can we do as a community to support our youth who are often struggling mentally and emotionally with how to navigate life when a friend or loved one is struggling?
According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, the emotional and mental stress of growing up in a household impacted by parental addiction and having to care for themselves and for intoxicated parents has a negative effect on a child’s brain development. In addition, children who must provide for themselves because their parents are physically or mentally absent are at higher risk of injury, exposure to crime, malnutrition and isolation from their peers.
Children whose parents are often drunk or high may be embarrassed to bring their friends home. As a result, their lives may become so restricted that they fail to develop strong relationships with their peers.
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics highlights how essential it is for children coping with loss from overdose or dealing with addiction in the home to understand they are not alone and that addiction is a disease. Just as important is helping our youth to understand they are not the cause of a parent’s addiction nor can they control the circumstances at home.
Parents and trusted adults need to help educate and inform youth about addiction and its effects. This can help a child understand what is going on in the home and help break the cycle.
Additionally, teaching youth valuable coping skills and strategies for self-care through social emotional learning and resiliency programs as well as one-on-one meetings with counselors can have a significant impact on successfully navigating this type of stress and trauma. Many of these resources and programs already exist in Routt County schools. Parents and trusted adults need to be encouraging youth to take advantage of these resources.
Additional resources on a national level include:
• National Association for Children of Alcoholics, Just4Kids and Just4Teens: The NACoA is a nationwide nonprofit organization that connects families, kids and teens affected by alcoholism with the resources they need to stay safe and healthy. The Just4Kids and Just4Teens pages include FAQs and resources for young people in need of emotional support and guidance.
• SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year information service in English and Spanish for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
Lindsey Simbeye is executive director of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.
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