The latest Jefferson Civic Leadership Academy class is about to launch an awareness campaign, focused on the region's opioid crisis.

The group of about 25 young professionals is wrapping up a seven month training program, aimed at growing their civic involvement.  The program has taken them to municipalities across Erie County and as far as Harrisburg, to meet with Governor Tom Wolf.

After last year's class focused on blight, this class keyed in on the opioid epidemic, as their group project. They talked extensively with families and individuals, on the front lines of the fight. They researched the statistics and developed data on where people can go to find help. 

Joelyn Bush joined this year's class because of a personal loss to the crisis. "In March of last year, I had a close friend pass away from an overdose and I knew that I wanted to do something," Bush said, "so I decided that this was the time to really engage my drive for leadership coupled with a really good action project."

Their new campaign will reach across web, social, and traditional media, with a goal of erasing the stigma of opioid addiction, so that people don't feel isolated in their battle and will reach out to get help. Tyler Titus, another member of the class hopes their efforts break down those walls of isolation.  "If our campaign is a success, to me that would mean that people are less afraid to reach out," Titus said.  "We take the story and we give the power back to the families who are grieving who are hurting and help them reach other families to prevent or intervene, if we can stop one person from traveling down that road we’ve done exactly what we set out to do," he added.

For Brad Wiertel, COO of Velocity Network, the step from his technology world into the Civic Leadership Academy took him out of his comfort zone, but after seeing the scope of the opioid problem, he is excited about the possibilities of the group project. "I think we’ve had a lot of hard work from our team here our whole class and the community at large from all the different media outlets that are partnering with us to help get the message out," Wiertel said, "and if one person can be affected or one family member can realize that they can get their loved one help, then we did a good job."

The class of young professionals graduates next week.  WICU and WSEE are among the local media partners who will help them launch the campaign.