HOWLAND — Removing items from a brown paper bag, Lama Green displayed to a gymnasium full of students and community members on Tuesday the shoes and clothing her brother was wearing on the day he died.
Her brother, Mohannad Saleh, a 2002 Howland High School graduate, died of an accidental heroin overdose in 2015.
Green was just one of several people who spoke about the effects of heroin at the “Faces of Heroin” assembly at Howland High School.
“I hope students see the hurt it causes,” Green said. “It is a lifelong battle with pain when you lose someone.”
A poster board with photos and a red name tag marked a spot in the bleachers for Saleh and one for each student the school has lost to heroin over the years.
“‘The Faces of Heroin’ is an awareness program for our students — to help our students understand the heroin issue and epidemic in our community,” said Howland High School teacher Meghan Durig, who organized the event. “We don’t want any more empty seats.”
Through a series of videos and personal stories, attendees heard from past students who were once addicts, family members who lost loved ones and those who see the drug’s effects every day at work.
“It makes the situation real,” said senior Gabby Hartzell, 17. “It’s not just something we see on the news.”
Senior Cody Hoerig, 18, said he hopes everyone in attendance listens and knows not to use the drug and to reach out to help those who do.
“It’s good to get the word out because it’s becoming more of a problem in society,” he said.
Ten years ago, people didn’t talk about heroin, but today everyone knows at least one person who’s been affected by the drug, said Girard Municipal Court Judge Jeffery Adler.
“We’ve come to a point in time where it affects everyone,” he said. “It needs talked about.”
Sharing his experience with the drug, 2005 graduate and recovering addict Doug Walker said heroin made him lie, cheat, steal and manipulate, until, with the help of a friend, he finally decided to enter rehab in 2015.
“This stuff is real,” Walker said. “It’s a life or death thing.”
The students need to make choices that won’t lead them down that road, Durig said.
In his speech, Trumbull County Chief Deputy Joseph Dragovich said life is not easy, but it’s all about the choices you make.
“You have the ability to make good choices,” Dragovich said. “There’s a whole world out there to see and you’re not going to see it at the end of a needle, a pill, a bottle. Live life and experience life without the substance.”
In October 2016, the school had its first heroin awareness assembly. Durig said the school plans to continue educating students each year on the drug and will have an awareness event for the community within the next few months.
Unintentional overdose deaths
The number of deaths caused by unintentional drug overdoses in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health:
• 2,357 heroin overdose deaths
• 1,693 other drug overdose deaths
• 4,050 total drug overdose deaths
• 1,155 heroin overdose deaths
• 1,895 other drug overdose deaths
• 3,050 total drug overdose deaths
• 503 heroin overdose deaths
• 2,028 other drug overdose deaths
• 2,531 total drug overdose deaths
• 84 heroin overdose deaths
• 2,026 other drug overdose deaths
• 2,110 total drug overdose deaths
• 75 heroin overdose deaths
• 1,839 other drug overdose deaths
• 1,914 total drug overdose deaths