The Pickerington Police Department will host an informational forum April 30 geared to educate parents and youths about the dangers of opiates and the warning signs of abuse.

The Pickerington Police Department will host an informational forum April 30 geared to educate parents and youths about the dangers of opiates and the warning signs of abuse.

In recent months, citizens groups, the Pickerington Local School District, city and police officials have stepped up efforts to raise awareness about illegal drugs in the community, particularly heroin and opiate-based medications.

The actions have ranged from town hall forums to Pickerington City Council's allocation of $50,500 to allow the Pickerington Police Department to hire a new officer and dedicate one to narcotics enforcement.

They follow the deaths of 23-year-old Tyler Campbell and 20-year-old Marin Riggs within the past year. In both cases, parents and city officials said the deaths were caused by overdoses of heroin.

Those incidents, as well as the police department's increasing encounters with heroin among adults in the community, led Pickerington Police Chief Mike Taylor to organize the forum, which will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pickerington High School Central.

The event will feature representatives from the Fairfield County Drug Court, the Fairfield County Drug Task Force, recovering heroin addicts and a video from Tyler's Light, a nonprofit foundation that aims to equip youths in Pickerington and throughout Fairfield County with the resources to help them choose a drug-free life. It also provides resources for family members and friends who are involved in the battle to defeat drug abuse.

"What prompted it was these two kids that died of heroin," Taylor said. "There's probably a lot of parents that have no idea what heroin is, what it looks like and what it can do.

"I can't put a number on (the heroin problem), but if we've already had two kids die from it and we've made several arrests for heroin, it leads me to believe we have a problem," he said. "There's been enough in the past month that leads me to believe there's a problem that we need to address."

The forum is free and open to the public. Police officials are encouraging adults and children to attend.

Those who do will hear from county drug experts who will discuss the dangers of opiate-based medications. They often lead to addiction and can result in people turning to heroin, which officials say typically is cheaper and more readily available on the street than prescription drugs.

Those officials and law enforcement officers will show attendees what heroin and other drugs look like, and discuss behavior and physical warning signs of drug abuse.

They'll also see the Tyler's Light video, which discusses the dangers of drugs and their sometimes fatal effects.

Additionally, there will be firsthand accounts about heroin addiction, its toll on people who have taken the highly addictive drug and who now are battling to stay off it.

"Chief Taylor came up with this event," Pickerington Police Cmdr. Matt Delp said. "He's vowed to eradicate drugs from our community.

"He wants to get that information out to the public. He's inviting everyone to come so they can understand the scope of the problem. We think it's going to be very informative."