Start Talking South-Western City, a community group working to decrease the illegal use of and addiction to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, has had to postpone the panel discussion it was planning as its first major public event.

The decision to postpone the April 21 program was made in light of the concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus and the cancellation of classes in the South-Western City School District through at least April 12, Start Talking president Marie Schiff said.

The program likely will be rescheduled in the fall, she said.

The panel discussion on the effects of alcohol, vaping and drug use in the community was to include representatives from the Grove City Police Department, the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, the Jackson Township Fire Department, Franklin County Municipal Court and South-Western schools, as well as community members who are in recovery.

Schiff and her brother, Brian Kitko, led the effort to form Start Talking South-Western City in July 2019.

The local organization is based on the Start Talking Ohio initiative, Schiff said.

Kitko, who serves as the group's vice president, is a Grove City police officer.

"We just felt there was not enough communication and discussion in the community regarding drug prevention," Schiff said. "It really is going to take a grassroot effort in the community to address the issue of addiction. Law enforcement and the schools can't do it alone."

The group's focus is not just drug-use prevention but also alcohol and tobacco use, Kitko said.

"The biggest thing we're trying to do is to get accurate information out to the public and to give them access to the resources they might not know about," he said.

"People who are impacted by addiction, whether it's themselves or a family member who is struggling, often don't know where to go to get the help they need."

Start Talking's website includes information and links to resources for families, youth and community members, Kitko said.

"We're not just focusing on young people because the problem of addiction knows no age limit," Schiff said. "Many adults in our community are struggling with addiction."

"It's not just our website people can connect with," Kitko said. "They can connect with us through Facebook and other social-media outlets Start Talking South-Western City has put in place.

"This allows people to get the information they need in the privacy of their own home and in the way they are most comfortable with,' he said.

The organization invites community and church organizations, youth groups and sports teams to request a speaker to share their knowledge or personal experience about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, Schiff said.

More information is available at starttalkingswc.org or at facebook.com/starttalkingswc/.

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