Parents have had an extra tool to protect their children this summer with free drug tests donated by Fisher-Titus Medical Center.
Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch organized the donation as part of a larger plan for a long-term fight against drug and alcohol abuse.
"Parents have to understand that this is happening to us," Lesch said at Tuesday's council meeting. "It will be eye-opening to people."
As part of that information campaign, the mayor said two meetings will be aimed at educating parents about the rise in area drug use, particularly heroin use. Meetings will be held Sept. 24 and 27 at Norwalk and St. Paul high schools.
"It's such a frightening drug because it is so terribly addictive," Lesch said. "It's happening to middle class people this city's demographic." She said a whole coalition of local groups is helping fund the tests and also a new Life Skills training program to be introduced in all Norwalk public and parochial schools.
Lesch said the Huron County health department will be teaching the new program, which "has been around for 20 years and has very, very high statistics on success." Either the life skills training or DARE will reach every child in third, fourth, fifth, seventh and either ninth or 10th grades.
Margaret Koupal, director of industrial health at Fisher-Titus Medical Center, said only about 20 of the original 100 drug tests are left at the hospital. Tests are available at the industrial health department and at the admitting department of the hospital, at the police department and at the Huron County Health Department. Lesch said a donor has offered to pay for additional tests.
Along with the urine tests that will check for nine different types of drugs, Fisher-Titus includes a brochure instructing parents where to turn for help if their child's test turns up positive.
Another new feature available to parents will be saliva tests for alcohol that the Norwalk Police Department is buying. Those will be available at the same locations as the drug tests.