By Jeffery Smith jsmith@the-leader.com

BATH - As Steuben County nears the crises threshold of abuse and addiction to opioids, such as heroin, morphine, and prescription drugs, officials plan to hold additional drug awareness forums to fight the growing problem.

Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler called the recent Steuben County Community Opioid & Substance Abuse Forum, which drew a large and interested crowd last week at the Bath Haverling High School, a big success.

“We plan to hold other (drug awareness) forums at other locations throughout (Steuben) county,” Wheeler said. “The dates and the locations of those events has not yet been determined.”

At the recent drug awareness event former addicts were joined by a panel of professionals from medical, social services, mental and public health, law enforcement, probation, counseling and education.

“I think if an event like this can help one person it’s tremendously successful,” said Steuben County Sheriff Jim Allard. “It allows people to get information on how to connect with caregivers that they need in order to treat their addiction.”

Joseph J. Hauryski, Chairman Steuben County Legislature, said holding drug awareness forums at communities throughout Steuben County in the future could be an effective way to try to deal with the problem.

Teresa Haight, of the Addiction Awareness of Steuben County, which meets in Addison each Wednesday, said she has heard many “amazing stories” from former addicts about the road to recovery.

“It would be nice to see other support groups in other areas,” Haight said. “We’re willing to help other support groups get started. It’s a lot of work, but it does so much for the people in need. Really for everyone.”

Wheeler said the main goal of Steuben County officials is to give valuable resources to the community, kind of a one stop shop, on the many programs geared to deal with substance abuse.

Two members of Addiction Awareness of Steuben County, Marissa Haight and David Hatch, former addicts, both in their early 20’s, would like to tell their stories to students at local high schools.

“We’re fighting tooth and nail to get into schools,” Marissa Haight said. “We want to show the kids, someone close to their age, things can happen that you wouldn’t expect. It’s real life that’s happened. I wonder every day if I had a speaker talking about the (drug) problems when I was in high school if things would have been different.”

Hatch said it’s something the high school students need to hear.

“I think they need to hear real stories,” Hatch said. “I think that’s what touches people’s hearts. We’re working on going to Addison High School right now. I don’t want to see kids go through the same things that I did.”