Drug use in St. Francis: Shining a light on Addiction

Drug use in St. Francis: Shining a light on Addiction

Rumors at St. Francis High School have spread about the increased drug usage like butter on toast. Incidents of medical personnel called to SFHS in the first half of the school year have gotten people concerned about the safety of students and those who may be directly affected by the outcomes of drug use.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Health, marijuana use in young adults was at historic levels in 2022. Local law enforcement believes the  most common types of drug usage at St. Francis High School are THC cartridges and vapes, both leading to a lot of commotion outside of the classrooms. 

“I do feel like vaping is up significantly,” said Principal Doug Austin.

 He plans on improving the education piece on drug abuse in the schooling system and supervising more of the areas that seem to get traffic. 

“We have  a counselor that comes here that’s outside that can also work with people who are going through it (addiction). The gateway to that would be the counseling office who can help students get connected with the right resources,” said Austin.

Austin feels it is important to connect students with a counselor who  prioritizes their time with kids who  are deeper in a hole than others.

Holly Coy, who is a licensed RN and serves as the school nurse, hopes students understand the signs of addiction.

“Addiction in general is when your use of anything – it can be drugs – it can be video games – and that causes you not to be able to operate or do your regular activities,” said Coy. 

If a person is not able to go to work or not able to go to school and if the only thing they  think about is using that substance, Coy said this is a sign of addiction. 

According to law enforcement, Drug usage in the community seems to run the spectrum from marijuana to  methamphetamine and heroin. A lot of the narcotics that are being found by police are laced with fentanyl. Sergeant Ryan Larson and Officer Amanda Dzuris have encountered their fair share of overdoses.

“We’ve had a lot of overdoses, unfortunately. Crushed percocet and stuff with bad batches that I think had fentanyl in them,” said Officer Dzuris. 

When Dzuris was the police liaison with the high school several years ago, she started finding kids carrying THC cartridges. She introduced this new topic with several other liaison at surrounding schools and the number of suspensions increased drastically. 

For some students, getting caught with substances in high school can be the jump start they need to get help. For others, families may find out too late that their loved one is suffering from addiction.

Sheri Schmaus was the loving mother to Jake Schmaus who died of a drug overdose in 2013. Jake graduated from St. Francis High School in 2010 with everything going for him like being on the honor roll, a driven athlete, and peers who admired him. 

They found that Jake was using in the fall of 2012 and it turned her life upside down.

“Jake had an attack one night and couldn’t breathe, so we called the ambulance,” Schmaus said. “He got to the hospital. He was in intensive care for a couple days and I asked him, ‘Jake – have you taken anything? You have to tell us so we can help you.’ ”

 She found out later this was his first overdose. Her  other son, Josh,  got Jake to admit that he was addicted to heroin.

Sheri sat with Jake through his withdrawals.

“He wanted help,” she said.

He had to stay at unity inpatient for ten days and they recommended outpatient for him. He went on to live with a friend in Oak Grove for 3-4 months and he seemed to be doing very well and even got a job in the area. 

“Something happened, I think a trigger happened, and he tried one last time,”said Schmaus. 

Her husband found Jake unresponsive on the floor one morning and performed CPR. Jake did not survive.

“That’s something John has to live with every day,” she said.

The Schmaus family didn’t want Jake’s life and death to be in vain. They created a foundation called For Jake’s Sake with the mission to increase awareness of the dangers surrounding the opioid epidemic through education and prevention. The foundation even grants seniors at St. Francis High School scholarships for those who write an essay about the major they intend to pursue and how they can help bring drug abuse awareness into the schools.

Jake had plans for his life. He was going to attend college to study computer software and graphic design. He even planned on getting married someday. Instead, his loving signature with a heart by his name became the signature logo for The Jake Sake Foundation.

“We need to stop this,” said Schmaus. “We need to stop the cycle.”