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Special O.P.T.S. on a mission to educate teens about opioid addiction

Tim Weber, drug liaison for the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office speaks to students about his own history with substance abuse during a Special O.P.T.S. program presented by the State's Attorney's Office at Gateway School in Westminster Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.
Tim Weber, drug liaison for the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office speaks to students about his own history with substance abuse during a Special O.P.T.S. program presented by the State's Attorney's Office at Gateway School in Westminster Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.(DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

"Please give us your undivided attention. It's not easy for us to get up here and tell you our truth," said Tim Weber as he stood before an assembly of high school juniors and seniors and relayed the story of the heroin addiction that he said caused him to spend years of his life in a state of mind he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy.

Still, when he was in school watching programs that urged him to "just say no" to drugs, he said the impact of addiction was lost on him. "This has nothing to do with me," he recalled thinking.

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Weber, the drug education and treatment liaison with the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office was one of three adults in long-term recovery who spoke Thursday, Oct. 12, to students at the Gateway School during the Special Opioid Prevention & Teen Support (O.P.T.S.) program. Developed by the State's Attorney's Office to address the opioid crisis in Carroll, the program went to South Carroll High School on Tuesday, Oct. 17, is coming to Francis Scott Key High School today, Oct. 19, and will be presented in every high school in the county before the end of November.

Brittany Sabock, a North Carroll alumnus who is in long-term recovery from heroin addiction, agreed with Weber's thoughts on traditional drug prevention in schools.

"Nobody came in and told me if I did say yes there was a way to get help," she said.

State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo said, "We're not here to preach. We're here to make sure they understand the consequences. We want them to make informed decisions."

FoolProof, an improvisational theater group made up of Carroll high schoolers, performed a skit about the life of an addict.

"Rather than the adults standing up there and preaching, I think this has a bigger impact," said Paul Zimmerman, co-founder of FoolProof. "Its hard to shut out when you're doing something live with emotion."

Although FoolProof actors are trained in the subjects they portray, the performances are not scripted and the actors switch characters each time, only learning who they will portray about 15 minutes before the performance.

At Gateway, Michaela Odian a senior at Francis Scott Key, portrayed Allie, a high-school student who became addicted to pain pills she took from her father's prescription.

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At one point Allie argued with her father and her father yelled back, "You're not my daughter anymore," drawing oohs and comments from the audience.

Zimmerman said that kind of engaged reaction is what the performers look for.

"We say that we try to hold up a mirror for [the audience] so they can see themselves and confront themselves in a safe way," he said.

Following the skit, the program featured a video that told the story of the Schmidts, a Carroll family who felt the pain of opioid addiction firsthand.

Beth Schmidt spoke about her son, Sean, who died at age 23 from an opioid overdose. His younger brothers, Alex and Eric, also spoke in the video about the impact of Sean's addiction.

"We always heard about it in school, but it's not something you ever think about happening in your family," Alex Schmidt said

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Beth Schmidt was in attendance at the Gateway presentation. After her son's death, she now keeps a list now of the young people in the county who have died from overdoses.

"The video really hit me hard," said Skylar Dorsey, an 11th-grader who attended the presentation. "My uncle, whose name was Sean, overdosed from heroin, and it really stuck with me.

"The fact that they brought in Sean [Schmidt]'s mom was another key thing," he said, "because hearing that from her — I remember I used to think, 'OK, some of these people may just be talking and it may not be true,' but really hearing it in person, that's what really got me."

Upcoming presentations

Thursday, Oct. 26 — FSK

Tuesday, Oct. 31 — CCTC

Tuesday, Nov. 7 — Manchester Valley

Thursday, Nov. 9 — Liberty

Tuesday, Nov. 21 — Century

Tuesday, Nov. 28 — Winters Mill



410-857-3315

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