SALISBURY HIGH SCHOOL
On Jan. 24, the Center for Humanistic Change hosted a presentation on Heroin and Opioid Prevention Education, or HOPE, at Salisbury High School. The program was held for parents and guardians of the high school students and for anyone who wanted to know more about the growing opioid crisis.
Informational pamphlets on a myriad of drugs and alcohol filled an entryway table at SHS. Nearby, an encased container full of photos and drug items called a substance abuse identification kit was displayed. Each substance in the kit was labeled to help parents better identify prescription and illegal drugs.
Brian Muschlitz, assistant principal at SHS, opened the forum by introducing the speakers. Muschlitz worked as a juvenile probation officer for 18 years and as a drug and alcohol counselor.
Lisa Wolff, co-developer of HOPE, senior manager for special programs at the Center for Humanistic Change and the director of prevention at the center, was first to speak to the gathering. Wolff gave a similar presentation to SHS students earlier the same day.
Wolff led the group through a series of slides, including one of the human brain and how it is chemically altered by heroin and opiates. The drugs stimulate pleasure, block pain and constrict pupils. Physical withdrawal from opiates includes fever, chills, nausea and diarrhea.
The second speaker was Chuck Deprill, of Upper Macungie Township. Deprill revived overdosed heroin addicts, working as an EMT for the City of Allentown for the last 48 years, yet even he did not recognize the signs of drug abuse in his son, Corey. He found out after his son confessed to using drugs following an arrest for theft. Although he was in remission for 10 months, Corey died of an overdose of heroin in 2011.
Deprill’s advice for other parents with addicted children is to let people know they don’t have to be afraid to talk about it.
“I was an EMT and I should have known. I missed every single sign of him being an addict. Every time he came up with an excuse, I believed him. I should have followed my gut,” Deprill said.
Deprill said he thought negatively about drug users until he discovered his son was one.
“I thought overdosed people were a drain on the system,” Deprill said.
When one of his best friends, who was a coroner, knocked at his door, Deprill immediately knew the reason. Police found Corey in a car in a hospital parking lot, where his girlfriend worked.
“On June 25, when he died, our life changed that day,” Deprill said.
Corey’s addiction started when he took an opiate from a friend to treat a herniated disk in his back. This single decision started his path to drug abuse.
Duprill said speaking for the Center for Humanistic Change has been therapeutic in dealing with the loss of his son. He also heads a fundraiser for the Center for Humanistic Change called “Wheels of Hope,” an effort Deprill and his friend Lisa Tiff started. The event raised $3,000 in 2017. The money is earmarked specifically for the HOPE program.
Next to speak was Faith Luffy, the 16-year-old sister of Zack Anthony who overdosed in 2015. The Saucon Valley 10th grader donned her brother’s favorite hockey jersey to address attendees. She spoke of how Zack said he wanted to make her proud and that he said he didn’t want to take heroin. Now she said, it was her turn to make him proud.
“My brother had an acute drug overdose and I found him in my house. He was 21. He went to rehab over 12 times. He was clean 72 days before he died. I really thought my mother was going to lay down and die with him,” Luffy said.
She spoke of the reality her brother would not be present to experience momentous occasions with her.
“He will never see me get married or graduate,” Luffy said.
Her reason for speaking was to erase the stigma that addicts are bad people.
Luffy and her family have been attending support groups to help them cope with their loss.
Next, a video was shown about the life of Lindsay Jacobsen, of Northampton County, a graduate of Parkland High School. The young mother was once hooked on opiates but is now in recovery. She works as an addiction counselor for the Center of Humanistic Change. Donna Jacobsen, Lindsay’s mother, leads the Caron Foundation Parent Support Group, meeting 7 p.m. Thursdays at First Presbyterian Church, Allentown.
Wolff said anyone can get addicted to either prescription or illegal drugs and warned of the severe nature of drug abuse.
“We have a lot of boys in our stories but, girls are catching up with overdoses. People of all ages die of drug overdoses. One element is consistent with opiate users. Eighty percent start on prescriptions. The frequency of overdoses in our country is staggering. Every 19 minutes someone dies in our country from an overdose,” Wolff said.
Wolff also spoke of the history of painkillers and talked about how early alcohol use is linked to drug abuse. She said this is not a statistic but is based on her own experiences. She said she has not found many heroin addicts who did not start with alcohol and/or marijuana use.
Her advice for opiate safety at home is to lock up all narcotics in a safe with a combination lock.
“We all have good kids that do impulsive things,” Wolff added.
Wolff went on to say Narcan nasal spray, at a cost of $120 to $150 per spray, can save a life because it pulls the opiates off the brain receptors. The overdosed person must then go to the hospital because the effects of the spray only last approximately 39 minutes.
Nicole Anthony, Faith and Zach’s’ mother, said moms are going to make a difference in this battle against opiate abuse.
“I just think we need to talk about it. I thought if we did talk about it, I was afraid she’d (Faith) lose friends. We moms need to get together and be honest. I think it’s going to take the moms,” Anthony said.
Anthony also said there are many loopholes when it comes to what and how long insurance companies will cover inpatient drug rehabilitation services. She believes this was one of the factors leading to her son not getting the consistent help he needed.
Sonia Oliveira, a prevention specialist for the Center for Humanistic Change, said every middle school in Bethlehem will get a similar but more age appropriate heroin and opiate in-service titled, “Choices, Chances and Change.”
“They’re at the time in their lives where they’ll make important choices on who to hang around with,” Oliveira said of the middle school students. “Also, we want to tell them there’s a chance to change as long as you’re alive. In the past, some schools would say, ‘That’s not our problem,’ but now they’re calling us,” Oliveria continued.
The goal of the organization is to get the program into every high school in Northampton and Lehigh counties.
Salisbury Township Police Department School Resource Officer Richard Nothstein attended the presentation to show his support for the program and to say he is proactive about helping students.
“I’m always available to talk to kids. I’ve had a lot of kids come in and talk to me. Our job is to build a relationship with them,” Nothstein said.
Muschlitz ended the evening with a note of thanks to those who spoke and attended asking them to pass the information on to other parents. He sent a message of encouragement and hope to kids struggling with drugs or alcohol.
“It takes only one adult to make a difference in a child’s life. If any student is experiencing issues with drugs or alcohol, please talk to any adult that you can trust for help. Teachers, counselors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, coaches, administrative assistants or administrators. We are all here to help,” Muschlitz said.
For more information about help with addiction, visit the Center for Humanistic Change website at http://www.thechc.org or visit the Lehigh County Drug and Alcohol Services website at https://home.lehighcounty.org/drugandalcohol.
For details on how to participate in the “Wheels of Hope” fundraiser, visit the Center for Humanist Change Facebook page for more details at https://www.facebook.com/centerforhumanisticchange.