After more than a year of discussion, research and planning, the Start Talking Grandview group held a public kickoff Tuesday, Jan. 26, in its effort to combat and prevent drug and alcohol abuse in the community.

After more than a year of discussion, research and planning, the Start Talking Grandview group held a public kickoff Tuesday, Jan. 26, in its effort to combat and prevent drug and alcohol abuse in the community.

The group scheduled a community forum that night at the Grandview Heights Public Library. The forum was set to include a presentation by Ohio State University students telling their stories of overcoming addiction.

That morning, Grandview Heights High School students attended an assembly featuring a presentation from representatives of Tyler's Light, an organization that raises awareness of drug abuse.

The organization was created by Christy and Wayne Campbell after their son, Tyler, a 2007 Pickerington High School North graduate, died at 23 from a drug overdose after he became addicted to painkillers following a football injury.

The Start Talking Grandview effort blossomed when a group representng Grandview schools attended a forum about heroin in April 2014, said Heidi Varner, a leader of the group with Megan Hatta, Phyllis Polas and Grandview school board President Debbie Brannan.

"The concern is that we are starting to see that drug abuse doesn't just involve 'back-alley' junkies," Varner said. "It happens in the suburbs and in what we consider to be safe, strong school districts like Grandview."

"The rise of opiate addiction and heroin use and addiction is expanding at an alarming rate," Hatta said. "With Start Talking Grandview, we want to engage the community and provide a platform where people can feel comfortable to ask questions, learn more and get support about the issue of drug and alcohol addiction."

More people die each year in Ohio from overdoses than automobile accidents, Varner said.

"We're fortunate in Grandview that we haven't had a student suffer an overdose yet," she said. "We want to provide the information and resources to help make sure that doesn't happen here like it did to Tyler Campbell."

A Youth to Youth club is forming at the high school. The Columbus-based program encourages students to pledge to be drug- and alcohol-free and make healthful choices in their lives, Varner said.

"Our effort crosses all age groups, but we have a big emphasis on supporting the schools in providing education and resources to students," she said.

Start Talking is not just a name, Varner said.

"The whole idea behind Start Talking is to have that conversation about drugs and alcohol with your kids," she said. "Just starting the conversation can have a big impact and help postpone the time when your kids may start using drugs and alcohol."

The Jan. 26 community forum was the beginning of a series of public meetings Start Talking Grandview hopes to plan, Varner said.

"It's an ongoing effort," she said. "We would like to have two or three forums a year, each on a relevant topic."

The group has earned nonprofit status and has a website, starttalkinggrandview.org, and a Facebook page, Varner said.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has said the most-effective tool he has seen in the fight against opiate addiction is the effort to educate and raise awareness by small community coalitions, Hatta said.

"Grandview cries out for this type of effort," she said. "We're an active, caring community that looks out for each other.

"This is another way we can look out for each other."