The youngest people in the room shed the most light on the opioid crisis as more than 40 concerned residents gathered recently to continue talks on how to tackle addiction in Thurmont.
Ed and Karen Schildt have led an ongoing community discussion of opioid use in Frederick County since losing their son, Chris, to an overdose in June 2016. The group hopes to support recovery and prevent new addictions through education.
The focus of Thursday’s roundtable discussion was to hear from preteens and teens at Thurmont Middle School and Catoctin High School to find out when and what kind of drugs students are being offered.
“Middle school and up, and I get worried,” said Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler, who attended Thursday’s gathering.
Seven teens — five in high school and two in middle school — attended the meeting. About half knew someone who used drugs or alcohol, and had been personally offered drugs.
Some students said they could walk five minutes in any direction and find drugs.
“That was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I maybe expected it, but it was a dagger in the heart,” said Micha Hagans, an extended member of the Schildt family, who is the mother of three of the children in the youth focus group.
At least one of the students knew the price of marijuana, cocaine and Adderall pills. None of the students, however, knew the street price in Thurmont for heroin or opioids.
The students present said they would be interested in sports tournaments or video game competitions hosted by the town as a way to provide an alternative to drugs. They were also open to the idea of having a place where they could get together to have fun and be active without drugs.
Mike Randall offered to spearhead the group’s youth outreach. Randall was president of Little League and youth wrestling when his two kids were young. For him, kids ages 13 to 18 are a pivotal group that needs to be captured by the group’s work.
One of the overarching goals of the group is to come up with locations where people in recovery or young adults could gather safely without drugs. The group invited the Thurmont Ministerium — a network of faith-based organizations — to join the group discussion.
Many of the churches in the ministerium have space and time in their facilities to host recovery groups, said Pastor Sue Koenig from Graceham Moravian Church in the ministerium.
Buddy Summers, who is a friend of Ed Schildt, also explored what it would cost to buy a building in Thurmont to run as a community center. The price wasn’t cheap, he said, but Summers offered to help fix it if that was the step the community wanted to take.
“Buying buildings, that is — to me — something down the road,” Koenig said. “Many of us have buildings that we’re wondering how to use them and maintain them.”