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Students painted slogans on the graffiti wall behind Bentley Hall for Heroin Epidemic Awareness Day, which will happen on Tuesday.

Ohio Heroin Epidemic Awareness Day addresses an issue with widespread reach

Chloe Hall and her family know the extent to which heroin can alter lives. 

Hall’s sister Arika, a recovering heroin addict, went missing from Canton in February. Her whereabouts are still a mystery.

Hall’s roommate Emily Quinn was inspired to use a class project in her Health Sciences Lifestyle Choices class as an opportunity to bring awareness to the heroin epidemic that struck the family of her roommate. Quinn, a sophomore studying business, marketing and graphic design, is now just one of about 160 people who have been working to make Ohio Heroin Epidemic Awareness Day a reality.

“The service learning project is a way for us to help others and that typically helps us give a sense of meaningfulness or purpose to our lives,” Juli Miller, professor of the Health Sciences Lifestyle Choices class, said. “That’s why I choose to incorporate that project into this course — to really examine our spiritual wellness and why are we here and what are we going to leave behind.”

Miller’s class, along with the help of many students from the College of Health Sciences and Professions, social work students, the Campus Involvement Center and other groups, will be selling heroin awareness shirts on Monday and Tuesday around campus to benefit Arika’s Angels, Hall’s non-profit she is organizing in memory of her sister. The money raised from the sales will also go to Tyler’s Light, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness and educating people about drug addiction.

“It really excites me to know that they’re on board with me on the whole thing,” Hall said. “I thought about coming up with my own organization, and then Emily brought up the project she was doing and it kind of kicked it off for me. So it’s really exciting and I love seeing that people actually care about it.”

Along with the T-shirt sales, as a part of the awareness day, there will be a series of guest speakers and panel discussions in Walter Hall Rotunda on Tuesday regarding heroin addiction and those who have been affected.

“We’re going to talk about how there’s all different types of heroes like the counselors that work with these addicts and recovered addicts and families that are dealing with addicts — they’re all heroes. That’s the positive message,” Miller said.

The awareness T-shirts go beyond the "just say no to drugs” motto that other drug awareness programs hold fast to, Miller said. The T-shirts read, “FXCK Heroin.”

“I think it’s really making a statement,” Miller said. “One of my students whose father has lost so many friends and sons to heroin said 'I want to buy 20 of those shirts and just give them to all my friends.’ We have to wake up to help our friends and family members.”

Putting a face to the victims of heroin addiction has been one of the class project’s primary goals. People often have a preconceived misconception about who falls into the hands of drug abuse, Miller said.

“People think of heroin addicts and they think of these really strung-out drugged people,” Miller said. “These are everybody we go to school with and these are people that are in that classroom. It’s affecting all socioeconomic groups. ... It’s not what we used to think of as heroin addicts.”

Heroin abuse in Ohio has been on a sharp rise over the past 10 years, Miller said. According to a 2014 report by the Ohio Department of Health, there was a 366 percent increase between 2000 and 2012 in the number of deaths caused by drug overdose.

“We just need to become aware. ... They’re lacing the heroin with different kinds of drugs to stretch it, to cut it, to make it go further. That’s really what kills people, because it’s so toxic. It’s really a tranquilizer they use for elephants so it’s 150 times what any human being could ever use,” Miller said.


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