February 28, 2017

Mercy program educates middle school girls about health issues

Mercy Medical Center and the Canton City Schools started the Well Women Healthy & Strong program last year to educate middle school girls about health issues that affect them. The program recently hosted a lunch for middle school students to discuss the topic of opioid addiction in Stark County. The event included a number of guest speakers, including Mercy Pain Management physician Jamesetta Lewis, D.O.

The Canton Repository wrote about the event. The text from the article is below. A brief video from the event is also posted here.

Students learn about drug prevention at Mercy

How do you help a person who is addicted to drugs?

What do you do when someone overdoses?

Do drugs make you lose weight? Do drugs make you gain weight?

Those were some of the questions asked by girls from McKinley Freshman Academy, and Crenshaw, Lehman and Hartford middle schools at the Well Women Healthy & Strong lunch Thursday afternoon at Mercy Medical Center.

Mercy and Canton City Schools started the Well Women program last year to educate middle school girls about health issues that affect them.

Dr. Jamesetta Lewis, a Mercy Pain Management physician, and Stark County Common Pleas Judge Frank Forchione spoke at the event and fielded the girls' questions.

Forchione explained how Ohio became the national leader in heroin and opioid overdoses, and the increasing threat from powerful synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil.

The judge also told students where they could find help for a friend or relative who is addicted to drugs, and urged them to get naloxone, a medication that can reverse an overdose, if a friend or family member is using heroin or opioids.

"This can save lives," Forchione said.

Some of the girls at the lunch session had lost a family member to an overdose.

Dr. Lewis told them there would be a point in their lives, if it hadn't happened yet, when someone would offer them drugs.

"You have to make a choice," she said. "You either want to go this way or you want to go that way, and that will determine where life will be headed."

Drugs cause irreversible structural changes in the brain, and the still-developing brains of adolescents are especially sensitive.

"You have to think of this as brain damage," Lewis said.

Addiction is a chronic brain disease. Drugs hijack the brain's natural chemistry so the brain thinks it needs the drug to survive, just like it needs food and water, Lewis said.

Addiction can be managed but it can't be cured. Relapses are common and remain a life-long risk, but the longer a person doesn't use a drug, the greater the chance of recovery and full abstinence

"Choices lead to consequences," Lewis said.

Mercy Medical Center is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

 

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