'Anti-Nbome mom' marks one year anniversary of crusade

CENTER GROVE,Ind. (May 10, 2015) — Jeanine Motsay never set out to be an anti-drug crusader. She was a Center Grove mom, set to celebrate Mother’s Day a year ago when a Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy told her that 16-year-old Samuel, her basketball-playing-healthy-eating son, was dead and investigators weren’t sure why, but evidence of a new mystery drug was found near his body.

The drug was called 25i-NBOMe and besides Sam and his friends and the two young people accused of selling it to him and the convicted felon charged with making it, almost nobody had heard of it.

Including the investigators who found it.

A year later, Motsay and Sam’s little brother, Nick, are at the forefront of a campaign that has educated tens of thousands of Hoosier teens and parents as to the dangers of the unstable psychedelic synthetic as well as its more well known drug cousins, spice and bath salts.

“What happened a year ago with Sam, with synthetic drugs, the landscape has changed,” said Jeanine. “Our laws have changed, the compounds that are making up the synthetic marijuana, the chemical structure has changed just in the last few months. There has been an enormous increase in the number of calls to poison control centers across the country and people are dying.”

Motsay channeled her grief into action, establishing samswatch.org to educate and alert visitors of the threat of the unknown.

In the last year, since the nightmare Mother’s Day of 2014, Jeanine has hosted forums across Indiana and helped bring National Drugs Facts Week programs to 45 state schools and thousands of children.

“When I get done talking kids come up and give me a hug and I feel that,” said Sam’s mom, wiping tears from her eyes.  “I think that I faced the worst day of my life and I don’t think there will ever be a day that is that awful and devastating and I’ve progressed past that.”

Sam’s Watch will sponsor the Substance Awareness Family Education (SAFE) forum at Franklin Community High School May 20.

State Senator Jim Merritt, Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox and others are expected to participate in a panel discussion to explain what’s changed since Samuel Motsay’s death and the challenges that life ahead.

“There are more people out there like Sam than not,” said Jeanine, “and I don’t want this to happen to them and I don’t want this to happen to their family.”

Sam’s Watch announces life-saving Substance Awareness Family Education event as teens head off for summer break

Parents and teens can learn how to ensure they have a safe summer at a substance-awareness panel May 20 in Johnson County. 

“Students will be looking for ways to kick back and relax on summer break, and we want to be sure they don’t think drugs are the way to do that,” said Jeanine Motsay, president of Sam’s Watch and the panel’s facilitator. “They need information to make wise decisions and this forum will make them and their parents aware of current drug dangers.”

The panel discussion will include Indiana Sen. Jim Merritt; Kristi Dunigan, a member of the Indiana Attorney General Prescription Drug Task Force; Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox; Michelle McMahon of Johnson County Communities that Care; Jamie Vickery, state coordinator of Indiana Students Against Destructive Decisions; Dr. Dick Huber, a substance abuse educator; Franklin Community Schools Athletic Director John Regas; and David Plew, a local parent advocate.  

The event is open to the public and will be held 7 - 8:15 p.m. at Franklin Community High School, 2600 Cumberland Road, Franklin. Attendees should enter through door 55 and go to the Large Instruction Room. Information will be available from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, Indiana SADD, Johnson Memorial Hospital, Tobacco Free Johnson County, Make Good Decisions, Overdose-Lifeline, Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County, Sam’s Watch, Tara Treatment Center and more.

Sam’s Watch is a nonprofit dedicated to teaching young people about the dangers of synthetic drugs. It was formed after Sam Motsay, a 16-year-old honors student-athlete, died on Mothers’ Day 2014 after he used a little-known synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe. For free access to student-produced awareness videos and more information, go to samswatch.org.

Responding to the overdose crisis

Indiana is suffering from a severe overdose crisis that has taken hundreds of young people’s lives. Preventable tragedies will continue across the state if more is not done.

In response to this crisis, state Sen. Jim Merritt has introduced Aaron’s Law (SB 406). This critical legislation enables agencies to bring overdose prevention programs to communities and allows parents and other bystanders to intervene in overdose emergencies with naloxone, a lifesaving medicine that can immediately reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. SB 406 will leave the House this week and head back to the Senate.

Sen. Merritt assisted with amending this legislation with input from representatives of government agencies, non-profits, law enforcement, public health, medicine, addiction treatment, parents, families and community groups. After months of work, Aaron’s law, as amended by the House, is a strong bill which will save lives and encourage families to build needed partnerships with community stakeholders and health care professionals in the fight against addiction.

We applaud Sen. Merritt for hearing us, the parents of lives lost. We beg our fellow Hoosiers to to stand with us to save lives in Indiana

On behalf of the Parents of Aaron S., David M., Brett F., Sam M., Leland P., Jake M., Stuart S., Ryan B., Tommy F, Jarrod P., Manda S., Eric D., Lynsey P., Jake T., Robby A., Charles R., Dustin Y., Jennifer R., Marisa, Katie F., Mitch E., Loren F., Kevin D., and Chet T.

— Justin Phillips, Overdose Lifeline, Inc., Indianapolis

Sam’s Watch announces life-saving media series for schools as teens head off for spring break

Middle and high school students who will be headed off to spring break need to be aware of the dangers of synthetic drugs and Sam’s Watch is offering materials to their schools to be sure the kids are. 

Sam’s Watch is a nonprofit dedicated to teaching young people about the dangers of synthetic drugs. It was formed after Sam Motsay, a 16-year-old honors student-athlete, died on Mothers’ Day 2014 from using the synthetic drug 25i-NBOMe.

Sam’s Watch will provide an audio public service announcement, a series of videos including a documentary and free evidence-based drug-awareness materials to schools that request the resources. To receive the materials, a school representative should contact Sam’s Watch by phone at 888-575-1015, email at jeanine@samswatch.org or online at www.samswatch.org/take-action/.  The one-minute PSA “Know Now” was designed as an audio-only medium to be used during a school’s regularly scheduled announcements or at hall passing time between classes. The five-minute video “Synthetic Drugs - Community Stops Drug Use” and a seven-minute video “Synthetic Drugs (Extended Edition)” were created by two Kansas City high school students with interviews from law enforcement, a toxicology expert and Sam Motsay’s mother, Jeanine.  The 15-minute documentary, called “The Power of Choice,” was created by three Indianapolis-area high school seniors who chose to make the video to spread awareness about synthetic drugs in memory of Sam. All three videos are for schools to choose from for student assemblies and class activities.  Sam’s Watch encourages schools to share the PSA, videos and documentary links with parents as well as their communities.

“Students on spring break – especially those who are traveling with friends - may be looking for ways to kick back and relax,” said Jeanine Motsay, Sam’s mother and president of Sam’s Watch. “They need to know that using synthetic drugs is not the way to have a good time. They need information to make wise decisions, and these materials will provide that awareness.”

Sam’s Watch also will connect schools with additional information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the federal agency that stimulates most of the world’s research on drug use and addiction.  

‘The Power of Choice’ featured in Franklin Film Festival

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) — A documentary in memory of a Center Grove teen is getting a lot of attention for its message about drug awareness.

The film is about Sam Motsay. The 16-year-old died last year after taking a synthetic drug called N-Bomb.

The documentary is called “The Power of Choice” and was produced by three seniors at Whiteland High School. It beat out eight other documentaries to make the final cut at this year’s Franklin Film Festival. The producers say they did it to raise awareness.

It was a busy night at the Aircraft Theatre in Franklin. Many people were there to catch a screening of documentaries produced by local students. This year’s theme: “A story that has to be told.”

“I definitely think as teenagers dealing with things like peer pressure, we’re just young, we’re naïve we don’t know that much,” said Madison Dolen, student. “I just think it’s important to be aware of alcohol and the substances that are around.”

Ashley Hamer, Bailey Hamer and Madison Dolen produced the 15-minute long documentary called “The Power of Choice” about Sam Motsay. The girls reached out to Sam’s mom last November about the idea.

“I contemplated it and talked with family and so forth. We thought that this aligned with what we think is important to get the word out about what happened to Sam so that it can be life giving to others,” said Jeanine Motsay, Sam’s mother.

Jeanine Motsay tells 24 Hour News 8 she got a chance to watch the documentary before it was submitted.

“By the end of the documentary and it was over there, was a lot of silence in the room,” said Motsay. “After a lot of processing and a lot of impact that it brought to the students.”

Even though the girls did not know Sam personally, they were inspired to share his story. They’re hoping it will be enough to make a difference and to prevent another tragic death from happening.

“Especially teenagers and kids our age if they’re ever in a situation like that they can think back and realize that one decision can change your life forever,” said Bailey Hamer, student.

The documentary did not make the top four, but the girls say they are just happy for the opportunity.

Click here to watch the documentary on YouTube.

Film honors teen who died after using synthetic drug

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – Three Whiteland High School seniors created a documentary memorializing a local teen, and made the Top 8 in the Franklin Film Festival.

The documentary, titled “The Power of Choice,” honors and remembers local academic honors-athlete Sam Motsay, who died last Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014, after taking a drug called “N-Bomb.”

The three Whiteland teen filmmakers interviewed Motsay’s family members and friends, who gave poignant interviews remembering the teen.

“The Power of Choice” also includes more information about Sam’s Watch.

Sam’s Watch is the non-profit that Motsay’s friends and family created to inform about the dangers of synthetic drugs – more specifically, the little-known synthetic drug that killed Motsay – 25I-NBOMe, or “N-Bomb”.

The Top 8 film entries in the Franklin Film Festival, which include “The Power of Choice,” will air Friday at the Artcraft Theatre on 57 North Main Street in Franklin. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., the films start at 7:30 p.m. Cost of admission is $5.

To find out more about synthetic drugs and their dangers, click here.

News advisory: Documentary in memory of Sam Motsay makes Top 8 in Franklin Film Festival

INDIANAPOLIS — The documentary “The Power of Choice” in memory of academic honors-athlete Sam Motsay has made the Top 8 in this year’s Franklin Film Festival themed “A Story That Has To Be Told.”  The Top 8 film entries will be showing Friday, Mar. 6 at the Historic Artcraft Theatre in downtown Franklin. 

“The Power of Choice” documentary was created by three Whiteland High School Seniors and submitted as an entry in the local film fest.  In memory of Sam Motsay, the documentary includes poignant interviews with family members and friends as well as Sam’s basketball coach at Center Grove High School.  Sam Motsay was killed last Mother’s Day, May 11th, from a little-known synthetic drug called N-Bomb (25I-NBOMe) and since that time his family and friends have formed nonprofit Sam’s Watch to get the word out about the dangers of synthetic drugs; drugs that threaten teens with no known medical use and for which there is no information on long-term effects.  For the latest about synthetic drugs that kill, go to www.samswatch.org or Facebook and Twitter @SAMsWatch.

 

Friday, Mar. 6

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and films start at 7:30 p.m.  Admission cost: $5.00

Artcraft Theatre, 57 N. Main St., Franklin, 317-736-6823

Ind. mom fights for tougher synthetic drug laws

INDIANAPOLIS - A central Indiana mother is closer to reaching her goal in the fight against synthetic drugs, but she still faces one major hurdle.

Jeanine Motsay is a mother on a mission. She has called on state lawmakers in the House to approve legislation that would list specific substances that have been declared synthetic drugs. 

Motsay’s 16-year-old son Sam was found dead after using a synthetic drug known as N-bomb.

PREVIOUS | Teen found dead in Johnson County home  | What is 'N-bomb'? Drug stirs concern after Indiana death

The death of the student athlete last May prompted his family to push for legislation that would make it tougher to sell synthetic drugs in Indiana.

Motsay expects lawmakers in the House to help make it a law.

"I think this is an easy shot. I think it is easy to say let’s do it, because it’s that simple. It protects our young people, there’s no question about it,” Motsay said.

“We will continue because there will always be someone out there trying to evade the law. We need flexibility in the law and the pharmacy board can offer us that along with these transparent rules where everybody knows what is against the law,” said Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis.

The bill sponsored by Merritt, Senate Bill 93 , passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday, so it is now up to the House to vote on his plan.

Gov. Mike Pence declared Thursday as Participation Recognition Day to encourage parents, teens and schools to talk about drug awareness in honor of Sam Motsay.

Franklin High School to start testing for synthetic drugs

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – A Johnson County high school is preparing to start testing students for synthetic drugs.

Franklin Community High School is able to expand the scope of their testing to include synthetic drugs and the number of students that they can test thanks to grant money.

The Director of Athletics for Franklin Community Schools, John Regas, says the goal is to build awareness letting students know that drugs will not be tolerated on campus.

“We’re not looking to get kids in trouble and catch a bunch of kids. That’s actually not what we’re trying to do,” said Regas.

The high school was recently approved for grant money. Around $4,700 will be used to help pay for the new testing. The policy will affect anywhere between 600 to 900 students.

Students driving to school, active in sports, inter-scholastic, or co-curricular activities like choir and band will be subjected to random testing.

“We have a random number generator that’s done and it selects students based upon on a random number that they’re assigned to and those students get tested,” said Regas.

However, Regas says if faculty or staff have reason to believe that a student may be under the influence of drugs, then he or she will be subjected as well.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office supports the measure.

“Last Mother’s Day, I went to a residence in Greenwood to notify a mother and a step-father that their 16-year-old son had died overnight from a drug called N-Bomb,” said Sheriff Doug Cox, from Johnson County sheriff’s office.

The tragedy of losing Samuel Motsay in the community is not only pushing schools, but also law enforcement to find a solution to combat synthetic drugs.

“In a lot of cases you find younger kids whose brain hasn’t developed yet,” said Cox. “They’re going to try to find ways to defeat the system so I give credit to Franklin.”

School officials have not formally notified students of the testing yet, but say they will start testing students later this month.

The new testing will cost the school $100 compared to $25.

Gov. Pence proclaims Feb. 26 Participant Recognition Day for National Drug Facts Week

45 Indiana schools participate with Sam’s Watch to get drug facts to Hoosier students  

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Governor Mike Pence issued a proclamation announcing Feb. 26 as Participant Recognition Day for National Drug Facts Week. The proclamation also recognizes the efforts to increase Indiana participation by local nonprofit Sam's Watch formed in 2014 in memory of 16-year-old Sam Motsay who was killed by a little-known synthetic drug.  

Sam’s Watch collaborated with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, to encourage Indiana schools to participate in National Drug Facts Week which took place Monday, Jan. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 1. All-told, nearly 34,000 Hoosier students were provided access to science-based information about drugs and their effects.  Connersville High School was awarded the $1,000 donation by Sam’s Watch for their participation.  Students from Carroll Sr. High School and Greencastle High School won mini-iPads for their blog/video contest entries to “Shatter the Myths” on drug use and addiction. 

The forty-five Indiana schools that participated via Sam’s Watch were:  

North Region- School City of Hobart/Ridge View Elementary, Hanover Central High School (Cedar Lake), Northfield Jr./Sr. High School (Wabash), North Side High School (Fort Wayne), Carroll Jr/Sr High School (Flora), Joan Martin Elementary School (Hobart), Career Academy South Bend, Liberty Elementary School (Hobart), Hobart High School, Hobart Middle School; 

Central Region- Wapahani RADD (Selma), North Central High School (Farmersburg), Holy Spirit Catholic School (Indy), St. Michael-St. Gabriel Archangel Elementary School (Indy), Hamilton Heights High School (Arcadia), St. Michael School (Brookville), Liberty-Perry Community Schools (Selma), Holy Cross Lutheran School (Indy), The Excel Center-Anderson, Warren Central Just Say No (Indy), Saint Lawrence Catholic School (Indy), Greencastle High School, Meadows Elementary (Terre Haute), Sugar Grove Elementary (Terre Haute), Anderson Preparatory Academy and Pre-Academy, Franklin Middle School, Westwood Elementary (Greenwood), Center Grove High School (Greenwood), Center Grove Middle School North (Greenwood), Center Grove Middle School Central (Greenwood), Decatur Central High School SADD Club (Indy), Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School (Indy), Whiteland Community High School, Southside Christian Academy (Indy), Connersville High School; 

South Region- Scottsburg Middle School, New Washington Middle/High School, Choice For Change/Washington High School, South Ripley School Corporation (Versailles), West Washington Jr./Sr. High School (Campbellsburg), Jasper Middle School ROOS group, Mitchell High School, Mitchell Junior High School, Dexter Elementary School (Evansville), New Tech Institute (Evansville).

For the full proclamation, go to samswatch.org/news

High school revamps drug policy, by Tom Lange, Daily Journal

Nearly a dozen Franklin Community High School students were caught with synthetic marijuana at school last year, and one of the key reasons they chose the drug was because the school didn’t test for it.

School officials knew their drug screening policy wasn’t working well enough.

So the school district applied for a $4,500 grant. That money will let Franklin schools test up to 20 students per month, and the high school also can make synthetic drugs part of those screenings.

“Our whole main objective is to give students a reason to say ‘no,’” assistant principal Scott Martin said.

In August and September, Franklin school officials caught 11 students who had synthetic marijuana, known as Spice, or paraphernalia with them at school. This was a first for the high school.

Usually when teachers and principals found drugs, it was marijuana or pills but not synthetic drugs, Martin said.

Students told officials they picked that drug because there was a better chance they wouldn’t get caught, since the school’s random drug screenings wouldn’t catch synthetic drugs. They also didn’t think they’d be selected for random drug testing. Out of 600 to 800 students subject to random drug testing, nine were selected each month, Martin said.

Students at most Johnson County school districts have to agree to random drug testing if they drive to school, are athletes or are part of other extracurricular activities. Students also can be drug tested if school officials have reason to believe they’re under the influence.

Drug testing and screening policies vary by school district. Greenwood schools, for example, prohibit the use of synthetic drugs but don’t currently test for those substances, Superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.

A big reason: cost.

A standard drug test, which screens for substances such as marijuana, cocaine and opiates, costs $15 to $25. Screenings that test for Spice and other synthetic drugs cost at least $100, Martin said.

With the Drug Free Johnson County grant, along with money from student parking permits that already was used to pay for testing, Franklin can start testing up to 20 students per month and include synthetic drugs in those tests.

The hope is that if more students are drug tested and if they know they can be tested for synthetic drugs, fewer people will use them, Martin said.

Franklin has slowly started increasing the number of students randomly drug tested, testing nine students one month and 20 students another month, and soon school officials will start testing 20 students every month. The high school sends identification numbers for students to a lab, which then randomly selects which students will be tested. But not every student will be tested for Spice. Of the 20 students selected for a random drug test, two would also be selected for synthetic drug screenings, Martin said.

If students test positive, they can lose their driving or extracurricular privileges but still attend school. Students can earn privileges back if they complete drug assessment programs, which can last from a few months to a year, and pass additional drug tests, Martin said.

But if students are caught using drugs or are high at school, they can be expelled. The students later might be allowed to enroll in the high school’s online Franklin Academy, depending on the circumstances of what happened, Martin said.

School officials know they still can’t catch every synthetic drug, largely because of how often those drugs are being created and updated. Last May, Center Grove High School student Samuel Motsay died after taking a synthetic hallucinogen known as N-Bomb, and police had to send samples of the drug to a lab to verify what it was because they’d not seen it before.

Schools work to learn about the new drugs and then warn parents and students about their potential consequences as quickly as possible, Martin said.

“It’s tough to stay ahead of anything anymore,” he said. “People that put drugs out there, they’re trying to do anything to get people hooked. I’m not sure if we can ever stay ahead of them, it’s more about learning and trying to educate ourselves.”

TESTING STUDENTS

Here are the details of the Drug Free Johnson County grant Franklin schools received to pay for additional drug testing, and what it means for students:

$4,500 Grant amount

600-800 Typical number of Franklin students subject to random drug testing

9 Previous number of students randomly drug tested per month

20 New number of students randomly drug tested per month

$15-$25 Cost of a drug test that screens for traditional drugs

$100-$150 Cost of a drug test that includes synthetic drugs

Sara Schaefer, WTHI, Favorite Story

Sara Schaefer joined the WTHI team June 2014 as a multi-platform journalist/producer. She reports general assignments Monday through Friday.

This is her first full time position but she worked part time at WTHI’s sister station in Indianapolis WISH-TV. There she was part of the promotions team and worked events for the station.

One of her favorite stories she has done at WTHI is about a mother sharing her heartbreaking story about her son dying from synthetic drug abuse. This was a touching story for Sara because this mother turned her situation into a lesson for the community, hoping to save them from the dangers of synthetic drugs by creating an organization called Sam’s Watch. It monitors the process of synthetic drugs becoming more common as well as what is being done to prevent abuse.

Sara is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She graduated from Ball State University with a double major in journalism and telecommunications. In her free time she enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her friends and family (including the four-legged members.) She is a big lover of animals, music, reading and writing, nature and sports.

Mom works to toughen penalties for synthetic drug dealers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – It’s been almost a year since a Greenwood mother lost her son after officials say he took a new and dangerous synthetic drug, known as 25i-NBOMe.

16-year-old Sam Motsay was an athlete and an honor student, with big dreams and a bright future. He died on Mother’s Day 2014 after taking NBOMe.

At the time of Sam’s death, even police here weren’t familiar with synthetic drugs. His family started a non-profit called Sam’s Watch, in the months after his death.

Sam’s family is now working to educate both parents and students about the dangers of synthetic drugs. Jeanine Motsay, Sam’s mother, says she’s also now working with state lawmakers to get these drugs out of our community.

Motsay says she’s working with Senator Jim Merritt to help get Senate Bill 278 passed. The bill would make the penalties for selling a synthetic drug the same as the penalties would be for whatever drug it mimics, like LSD.

“Sam was your typical kid, but for us, he was our son. We miss him every day,” said Motsay. “We’re hoping his death can be life giving to someone else.”

Motsay says Sam and his friends didn’t know what they were getting, and the information shared between peers wasn’t accurate.

“I want parents to know what I would have wanted to know before this happened to Sam. I want students to know because Sam was a smart kid and I think with the right information, he could have made a better decision.”

Motsay says tougher penalties for those who deal such drugs are imperative.

“It’s important to me that we cover all the bases, and we make the penalties stiffer, so we can dissuade those dealers and distributors from making that drug and targeting our teens.”

Motsay spoke at numerous schools last week as a part of the National Drug Facts Week, reaching thousands of Hoosier students to share her message.

She says they’ve also prepared a PSA they’re going to release to media outlets and schools.

Her efforts come as an appeals court just declared the state’s ban on synthetic drugs unconstitutional, the judge saying the law is too vague for citizens to understand. The state has 30 days to appeal.

“If you look at what happened to my son, I don’t think there’s anything vague about it. They were sold something that was to resemble LSD or acid, it was a research chemical, a synthetic drug called 25i NBOMe, and it actually resulted in my son’s death. I don’t think there’s anything vague about that,” said Motsay.

“It helps to know we may be saving someone else,” said Motsay.

For more information on the non-profit Sam’s Watch, and also for more information on synthetic drugs click here