Friday, April 06, 2018

New summer camp helps kids affected by opioid addiction

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A rural West Virginia firefighter and emergency medical technician is trying a novel approach to mitigating the opioid epidemic: a summer camp geared toward kids affected by opioid addiction. Through his job at the Teays Valley Fire Department and working with the Tri-County YMCA's summer camp for several years, Jared Davis saw local kids needed something like the camp. If the generations-long cycle of poverty and drug abuse is allowed to continue unchecked, today's kids could be tomorrow's opioid users, Carlee Lammers reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

"When a kid is born into a particular situation, they’re going to see that as normal . . . When their family does drugs, doesn’t work and isn’t functional, the kid is simply going to grow up and follow in those footsteps," Davis told Lammers. "It’s not a kid’s fault to grow up and become what their home situation is if no one has ever taken the time to show them a better way."

Davis' church, Church at the Depot, bought a defunct day camp for $535,000 and turned it into Camp Appalachia, a 150-acre camp with features such as a rock wall, a ropes course, and a pool. The church is partnering with West Virginia State University to provide outdoor education, in hopes of slowing or preventing summer learning loss for campers.

The camp aims to help kids build up their self-esteem and realize they can conquer challenges (such as a rock climbing wall), which will hopefully help them feel like they can overcome the challenges in their home lives. They want to help the children understand that "they can be better," Davis told Lammers. "We can't necessarily fix the kid's situation, but we can change his or her outlook on the situation. So, when they go back to a home that is not suitable, so to speak, they have the emotional fortitude and the resiliency to be able to overcome their family situation. Maybe they can look back on the counselor who spent extra time with them, or showed them that they cared."

Davis will bring in local firefighters, EMTs and police officers to hang out with the kids so they can feel more comfortable with law enforcement, instead of viewing them primarily as people who "took Mom or Dad away," he said. The camp opens this summer.

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