By Mary Alice Casey
Wesley Workman was personable and popular. A gifted football player, he led his Portsmouth High School team in tackles three years in a row and was a 2007 all-state honorable-mention selection.
But there was another side to Wes, says his mother, Jo Anna Krohn.
He got mixed up in alcohol and drugs as a young teen, and by age 16, he had spent 45 days in juvenile detention. In the final months of Wes’ senior year, Krohn’s ex-husband told her he suspected their son was dealing drugs. She seriously considered turning him in, but was desperate to see him at least finish high school.
On April 20, 2008, Krohn got a call that her son had accidentally shot himself while partying with friends. He was under the influence of OxyContin.
Wes died two days later.
“He made bad choices, and he got caught up in some things he couldn’t control. And it killed him,” Krohn said. “It was a week before the prom and five weeks before graduation.”
Not wanting to see others lost to prescription drug abuse, Krohn — on the second anniversary of her son’s accident — founded a group to raise awareness about prescription painkillers’ widespread abuse and to support those who have lost loved ones. Its name, SOLACE, stands for Surviving Our Loss and Continuing Everyday.
The group meets twice a month, sometimes just to talk, sometimes to hear a speaker. Members accompany one another on cemetery visits and maintain a memorial wall in a Portsmouth storefront. Krohn and others also speak at schools, churches, community group meetings, and in other settings.
“When I saw the power we had, I thought, ‘This is going to be part of the solution,’” said Krohn, who especially appreciates the attention her message draws at area schools. “It’s been well-received by the students. They listen. They’ve cried with me. They’ve told me, ‘You’ve made me think about what I’m doing.’”
Krohn is willing to help others form groups like SOLACE elsewhere in Ohio. To reach her, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 740-464-3852 (evenings) or 740-259-8348 (daytime).