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Parents give testimonials about drug use

According to a survey conducted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, from 2011 to 2012, the number of deaths from heroin overdoses rose in Carroll County by 550 percent, from two to 13. To combat this rise, the Carroll County Health Department has teamed up with schools throughout the county to hold events where parents can learn about the dangers of drug use, possible warning signs and ways to get help.

Liberty High School will be hosting Parents Speak Out in the school's media center starting at 7 p.m. May 15. Linda Auerback, substance abuse prevention supervisor for the Carroll County Health Department, said that the focus of the meeting will be on heroin, prescription drugs and other opioids. The event will include multiple speakers including Auerback; Gary Tuggle, assistant special agent with the DEA; Tim Weber, a recovering heroin addict who now helps others stay clean; and parents of overdose victims. Oklahoma Road Middle School has also partnered with the health department for this event and will be providing refreshments.

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She added that the meeting has no set end time due to the emotionally heavy content being discussed.

"These parents are stepping into a place with grief and pain so we don't want to cut them off," Auerback said.

Auerback also said that the Carroll County Health Department will have two booths set up at the event, one about underage drinking and the other on drug prevention, and each will provide updated and current information, particularly on how to seek help.

"A lot of people just don't know where to turn," Auerback said. "We try to teach life skills, that's what drug prevention is all about."

Weber, founder of Weber Sober Homes, has been a recovering addict since 2003 and has made it his life's work to help those who suffer from addiction. He also encourages others who are like him to share their stories, like Nick Radocha, 21, a recovering addict who will give his personal testimony.

"In a way, their negative pasts can get others into a positive future," Weber said.

Beth Schmidt, a speaker at the event whose son died of an overdose last December, said she will talk about the effects drug use can have on a family, warning signs, but most importantly, the obstacles for a parent in getting their children into treatment.

Schmidt said that when her son admitted to her he needed help, some treatment programs refused him service because he had not been an addict for at least one year. Others said he had to fail at an out-patient facility first before he could be admitted. He was finally accepted into a 28-day inpatient facility, but his insurance company forced him to leave after just 11 days because he was doing so well.

"Addiction is addiction, regardless of timeframe," Schmidt said. "If the medical community wants to call it a disease, then they have to treat it like a disease. It doesn't go away in 28 days, much less 11."

The two biggest obstacles to recovery, she said, are the hoops that addicts and the families of addicts have to jump through to get help and the refusal by many people to really see the extent of the problem.

"I am trying to change the way that people see these kids," Schmidt said. "People don't want to see it, or admit that it's out there. They don't want to help."

Auerback said that they held an event much like this at On Our Own of Maryland, Inc., a local wellness and recovery center located in Westminster, last February and around 50 people attended. She added that since many of the overdose victims went to Liberty High School, she is expecting a large turnout.

"We'd love to fill the place," Auerback said. "We are hoping that a lot of kids will attend too."

Though he said he would like to see a large group, for Weber, if just one person is helped out of the deep hole of depression and darkness that is addiction, he'll be happy.

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"I've lived through that hell and I want to see other people come out of it," Weber said.

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