Start the conversation [Editorial]

It’s always a good time for parents, guardians and grandparents to have conversations with their kids about drugs, alcohol.

Setting aside a special night to have those conversations is a good thing, but grownups shouldn’t be reluctant or wait to have those talks with the children under their care at any time.

Wednesday’s annual Night of Conversation, part of a national effort, is done to give hesitant grownups a formal excuse for such talks.

“No government program is as powerful as parents talking to their children,” Cindy Mumby, a county government spokesperson, said. “That really is at the heart of this program, to encourage parents and caregivers to take one night at the dinner table, sit as a family and talk, make a plan.”

Addiction is the reason families need a plan. For too many years, the numbers have been piling up. As of last week, there have been 438 opioid related overdoses in Harford County, with 77 of them fatal.

The problem is those numbers are people, or in the cases of the 77 who didn’t make it, were people. They were people whose families were ripped apart by their children’s losing battles with addiction. When police report the grim statistics, which they update Mondays, they are a depressing reminder of how much the life (and deaths) of addiction have taken root in Harford County. Those 438 overdoses aren’t necessarily 438 different people. With today’s resources and availability of antidotes to reverse opioid overdoses, some of the 438 overdoses were the same people who had been saved only to overdose again.

“Harford County’s Night of Conversation is a time to help your children plan and practice what to do and say when they are offered drugs,” Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said. “With your help, they will make the right decision.”

That might be true in some cases, but it’s not likely that conversations will save all children from the debilitating effect of addiction. But there’s enough hope that at least someone will be saved from a life ruined by alcohol and drugs that Harford County is pitching in with the effort.

The Harford County government, Harford County Public Schools, the Harford County Public Library, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the Harford County Health Department, participating restaurants, grocery stores and doctors are sponsors of the initiative.

“Kids are exposed at very young ages, unfortunately,” Mumby said. “We hear it repeatedly from our partners in the school system: kids are in environments where they are exposed to drugs and alcohol at very young ages.”

Attacking the norm that exposes young people alcohol and drugs at very early ages is a key goal of the “Night of Conversation.”

It is held “to raise the issue out of the shadows to become something families talk about regularly, like they talk about a lot of things,” Mumby, the county government spokesperson, said. “This will help parents and caregivers build bridges with their kids about a subject that often doesn’t come up until it’s too late.”

That’s so sad, and so true. Not enough families have regular meals together, or sit down for dinner together often enough, which might not contribute to the addiction epidemic, but it certainly doesn’t help.

If you didn’t participate in the Night of Conversation Wednesday, we urge you do so by sitting down with your vulnerable kids and helping them with ways to just say “no” the first time they come face to face with a drug offer.

Being prepared to say “no” the first time might be the most effective way for young people to never become addicted. If you need an ice breaker to start such an important talk with your kids, whether it’s this week or another time, a Night of Conversation is a good excuse for starting to talk.

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