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Addiction

The band H.I.M.S. performs at the War on Addiction Rally. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

On Saturday, April 21, more than 1,000 people gathered to rally against drug addiction at Bald Hill in Farmingville. It was a powerful demonstration of our human spirit!

The event was spearheaded by two parents, who buried their son, who died of a heroin overdose, two years ago. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, they decided to become proactive and raise people’s awareness to the painful affliction of addiction. They urged greater advocacy for more accessible residential treatment beds for those battling addiction.

The speakers were challenging and heart wrenching. Each one eloquently reminded us to be a voice for change — urging us to speak loudly about the stigma and shame that so many people live with because of addiction and its infection.

A mother wrote a piercing letter that was read about her son who overdosed and died last year. She spoke of the heartache she still endures a year later. N.L. was in his mid-20s. He was bright, handsome, very athletic and born into an extraordinary family. After an athletic injury and being prescribed opiates for pain, his nightmare began. His family’s nightmare began as well.

N.L. constantly struggled with long-term recovery and abstinence. His mother recounted that during one of the periods of abstinence, her son was working hard at recovery. One day he was at a local bagel store in his community waiting on line and saw the father of a friend. He went to shake his hand but the man turned his back and walked away! What was that about? 

N.L.’s sister was also tortured on social media. What happened to reaching out and providing support and encouragement for those struggling with recovery?

The rally that Saturday morning did provide support. However, it was bittersweet. So many who attended have already buried their children, and many others were struggling with sons and daughters who are still out there and using.

Too often when we talk about addiction, we talk about the dark side of this painful health epidemic. The day ended on a note of hope. So often we focus on all those who’ve overdosed and died because of this horrific health crisis.

People do recover! A group of young men who live in a long-term nontraditional rehabilitation residence in our community formed a band known as the H.I.M.S. — Hope Inspired Men Sing. They closed the rally with a powerful rendition of “Go Light Your World” by Chris Rice.

“There is a candle in every soul. Some brightly burning, some dark and cold. There is a Spirit who brings a fire. Ignites a candle and makes His home. … Cause we are a family whose hearts are blazing. So let’s raise our candles and light up the sky. … Make us a beacon in darkest times. … Hold out your candle for all to see it. Take your candle, and go light your world!”

These extraordinary young men, ranging in age from 25 to 46, stood before this crowd as a reminder that people do get better. People can reclaim their lives, rejoin their families and contribute to making the world a better place.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Though the sun was shining, and the message was positive, most attendees would prefer to be just about anywhere else on a Saturday morning.

For the second year in a row, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) has helped the family of one of her constituents who experienced unimaginable personal tragedy turn pain into a positive for the community. Last year, to honor the memory of Billy Reitzig, a 25-year-old Miller Place resident who died as a result of a heroin overdose in April 2016, Bonner and Reitzig’s parents, Bill and Sandy, created Hope Walk for Addiction, an event at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai in which participants came to walk, give and receive support for those struggling with addiction, either personally or someone in their family. On April 21, Bonner and the Reitzig’s were at it again, this time hosting a War on Addiction Rally at the Pennysaver Amphitheater in Farmingville.

“This year the Reitzigs wanted to do something a little bit different — they wanted to have a rally,” Bonner said.

Both she and Bill Reitzig likened the event to a double-edged sword — positive for the feelings of solidarity and support attendees undoubtedly walked away with, but never far from the grief and the wish a rally for hundreds of people to unite against addiction weren’t necessary.

“Looking at the people here we know that everybody’s been touched by this whether it be their child or a friend or a family member,” the councilwoman said. “When we were meeting monthly to help set this up, at every meeting at the end we would say ‘God willing we won’t have to be here next year.’”

The event had another, equally important stated purpose along with support for addicts yearning for recovery and families worried about loved ones. All proceeds raised through donations, raffle tickets and offerings from the dozens of vendors on hand were donated to benefit Hope House Ministries, a nonprofit based in Port Jefferson with other locations on the North Shore that supports people suffering from addiction.

“My son passed away April 22, 2016, and prior to that there weren’t some of these groups that are here today like FIST, Families in Support of Treatment, because while he was going through Hell, in all honesty, with addiction and struggling and trying to get better, we as a family needed support,” Reitzig said. “Some of those groups weren’t available then, and since he passed away I’ve met so many nice people. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s kind of like, ‘I wish I didn’t know you, and I wish I didn’t get to meet you today.’ But you know what, my wife and I decided not to bury our heads in the sand and to come out and try to make a difference with donations. We’re just trying to give back and, I don’t know, I think I get the strength from my son in order to be able to help and try to make a difference.”

Bonner said the shift from a more somber event in 2017 to a rally this year should signal a breaking down of the stigma of addiction and empower people suffering themselves or from watching a loved one struggle to reach out for support.

“I think I get the strength from my son in order to be able to help and try to make a difference.”

— Bill Reitzig

“If we can continue to chip away at that, I think more recovery and more help will evolve from that,” she said. “We all share the feeling, that shame and embarrassment is becoming less because so many more have been affected. So I don’t know if it’s a natural progression. Whatever the reason is for it, it can only help.”

Reitzig said he also hoped a byproduct of the rally would be for people to sign a petition asking New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to spearhead legislation that would mandate evidence-based substance abuse educational programs in every school statewide and urged people to question doctors when prescribed pain medication.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) shared a similar sentiment when asked what he hoped attendees would take away from the rally.

“We want to tell people there is hope, you can take back your life, you can take back control of your life,” he said.

The rally raised about $45,000 for Hope House Ministries, up from the walk in 2017 which yielded about $34,000, according to Bonner. About 1,000 people attended the Saturday morning into afternoon event. For more information about the Reitzig’s cause or to donate visit www.waronaddictionrally.com.

On Tuesday, April 10, Harbor Country Day School will host a community forum, titled “Addictive Behaviors in Adolescents and Adults: Warning Signs, Risky Behaviors and Helpful Resources.” The forum will feature mental health, medical, and social services experts, who will lead attendees in a candid discussion about various forms of addiction, including technology and video game addiction, social media dependence, alcohol and other substance abuse, vaping and “gateway drugs,” and opioid addiction.

WHAT:   “Addictive Behaviors in Adolescents and Adults: Warning Signs, Risky Behaviors and Helpful Resources”

Panelists will include:

  • Kym Laube, Executive Director of Human Understanding and Growth Services, Inc. (HUGS)
  • Linda Ventura, Founder of Thomas’ Hope Foundation
  • Noam Fast, M.D., Medical Director of the Mather Hospital Chemical Dependency Clinic
  • Jason Bleecher, Licensed Master Social Worker & Substance Abuse Therapist
  • Carissa Millet, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

WHEN:      Tuesday, April 10, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

WHERE:     Harbor Country Day School

17 Three Sisters Road

St. James, NY 11780

HOW:   Free tickets are available at https://hcds.eventbrite.com or by calling (631) 584-5555

WHY:   As today’s adolescents and their parents and caregivers face growing societal and personal challenges, addictive behaviors are appearing in many new forms and to extreme degrees. The forum will provide an opportunity for a candid discussion about the prevalence of these addictions, warning signs to be aware of, and solutions and community resources for those in need.

 

About Harbor Country Day School

Founded in 1958 by conscientious parents, Harbor Country Day School is an independent, co-educational day school for children from preschool through eighth grade in St. James. Emphasizing a whole-child approach to education, Harbor offers a rigorous curriculum enhanced by signature programs in STEAM, global languages, math, and language arts, with a strong emphasis on character development. The school’s mission to “cherish childhood, cultivate wonder, and inspire confident learners and leaders” underscores every student’s experience and ensures that all of its graduates are prepared to lead fulfilling lives filled with wonder, confidence, and many successes. Harbor Country Day School’s summer camp program, Camp Harbor, is among the leading summer camp programs on Long Island.

Harbor Country Day School is chartered by the New York State Board of Regents and is accredited by and a member of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS).  It is a non-sectarian, nonprofit organization under section 501(c) (3) of the IRS Code governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees.  For more information, visit www.hcdsny.org.

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Over the last number of weeks we have been reminded of the seriousness of the opioid epidemic that is plaguing our country and our larger community. There have been a number of op-ed pieces in a number of respectable newspapers speaking to this issue. Our president in his State of the Union address underscored how serious this health issue is and promised all Americans that his administration is working feverishly to end this lethal health epidemic.

In Blue Point, the St. Ursula Center convent on Middle Road is for sale. A profit-making business wanted to purchase this property and use it as a residential rehab for women. After much back and forth and intense push back from the local community this business has withdrawn its offer.

Let’s be clear, we are in desperate need for residential treatment beds for people battling the heroin epidemic. We especially need more beds for women. The Ursula Center would have been ideal.

However, some rather important facts and figures were never publicly addressed that are critical to understanding the complexity of this health issue and how it must be treated if we hope to be effective supporting people who are afflicted with this addiction. There is compelling research and evidence-based treatment research that is important to review and understand. We need long-term residential treatment beds for those battling the opioid epidemic. Very few recovering opioid addicts sustain recovery after only 30 days in residential treatment.

If the truth be told, most insurance companies will not pay for any kind of residential rehab until the consumer fails at outpatient treatment. The recidivism rate for heroin addicts in outpatient treatment is off the page. People are trying outpatient treatment first because they have no choice and they are failing, they are dying — that is unconscionable.

Our insurance companies should be held accountable for every unnecessary death caused by the industry’s unwillingness to do its job. For the record most insurance companies, if they agreed to pay for residential care, only end up paying for 11 days. They decide that after 11 days it’s not a medical necessity! The average hard-core addict struggling to survive takes at least 30 to 45 days to truly detox their bodies from all the toxins with which they have been infected.

It is very disturbing that those who lead us within our political bureaucracy are unwilling to take on the insurance companies for making life-and-death decisions regarding people who battle addiction. Taking a person into residential treatment with the promise of at least 28 days and then discharging them at day 11 because the insurance company won’t pay is a disgrace and a scandal.

The Blue Point community has every right to be concerned. We do not need any more short-term residential programs that do not honor their commitments. If we’re addressing the opioid epidemic, we need long-term residential treatment programs that work on transitioning the recovering person back into the real world, hopefully with the skills to survive a drug-infested world.

The governor of our state has promised millions of dollars for residential treatment. That promise was made over a year ago. Since that promise, not one dollar has been released for residential long-term treatment.

This health crisis is getting worse by the day, not better! As a community, we need to demand the distribution of the money promised to those who are trained to work in the area of residential treatment for addiction so we can begin to support recovering addicts and their families. People are petrified and they should be; this epidemic is out of control. Change and transformation can happen and it will with the right support.

As someone who has lived and still lives with struggling drug addicts, I watch them struggle to recover. I see their pain every day but I also see the miracle of change and transformation. Addicts do recover and reclaim their lives and enrich our communities. Hope must become the anthem of our souls!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

The Three Village school district will hire an additional guidance counselor at Ward Melville High School, above, as well as a psychologist to administer tests throughout the district. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Donna Newman

At a recent meeting of the Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness Program — a support group that seeks to educate all and assist parents and family members of teens and young adults battling substance abuse —  I spoke with a young mother of elementary-school-age children. She was there to learn about this growing danger that has taken so many lives in Suffolk County. She is afraid for her children. They are growing up in a society where drug overdose deaths have become routine. She wants to protect her children from becoming victims of substance abuse.

This mom has been on a crusade to make parents aware of the dangers, knowing that this is a Three Village problem and it will take community awareness and extensive effort to combat it. So she speaks to parents of young children wherever she finds them to encourage them to be part of the solution. She told me the majority response from parents is: “Not my kid. She’s an A student.” Or, “Not my kid, he’s an athlete.” Or simply, “My child would never get involved in that.”

I’m here to tell you that you need to take your head out of the sand.

The significant drug problem at Ward Melville High School when my sons were in attendance in the 1990s was not publicly acknowledged by the school district — or anyone else other than the parents whose children “got into trouble.” Mine did not. They were honor grads, heavily involved in extracurricular activities.

However, in a conversation with one of my sons, years after graduation, I learned he had used drugs with some regularity while in high school. It turned out I had been one of those clueless parents. But I was one of the lucky ones.

Lucky, because back then, when a teenager bought marijuana, it was just pot. It was not the cannabis of today, which may be laced with illicit and scary drugs by dealers seeking to hook kids on stronger stuff. Lucky, because he did not have a propensity, and his “recreational” use never rose to the level of addiction.

Full disclosure: As a college student in the 1960s I experimented with marijuana as well. My equally clueless mother discovered a small baggie of weed in my room. She trashed it, never saying a word to me. In that era, just knowing she knew was enough to get me to stop.

The school district has finally acknowledged the fact that addiction is a disease requiring treatment, not a moral lapse requiring punishment.

According to “School district welcomes new drug and alcohol counselor” in the  July 20 edition of The Village Times Herald, the district has hired a substance abuse counselor. Heather Reilly, certified social worker, will be tasked with rotating through the secondary schools one day each week (including the Three Village Academy alternative high school program), providing substance abuse counseling, educating faculty about warning signs and drug lingo, and creating educational curriculum for sixth-graders in collaboration with elementary health teachers. She will also be available to work directly with families.

While this is a laudable first step, it’s not nearly enough. Change will not happen without a concerted community effort. Parents need to accept the fact that this is a real problem affecting Three Villagers across the cultural and economic spectrum. Yes, it could even be your child.

Folks must come to grips with the fact that chemical dependency is a potentially fatal illness and that 90 percent of sufferers go untreated. They need to acknowledge that kids who are addicted to alcohol and/or opioid drugs are not “bad” kids. They are youngsters whose brains are not fully developed, who made bad choices that led to a tragic outcome. It’s time for all of us to learn all we can about prevention and to come together to end this plague.

There’s a lot you can do. For starters, attend the monthly meetings at the Bates House in Setauket. Dates and times are listed on Facebook on the Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness Parent Group page — along with other helpful information. Learn when and how to begin to talk to your child about the dangers of alcohol and drugs and your family’s rules concerning underage drinking and substance abuse. A good place to begin is at New York State’s online site www.talk2prevent.ny.gov.

The next meeting at the Bates House, located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket, will be held Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Donna Newman, a freelance writer, is a former editor of The Village Times Herald.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker speaks during a press conference July 25 about creating a permanent panel to address the ever-growing opioid crisis. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Following another year of rising opioid use and overdoses, Suffolk County officials announced legislation that would create a new permanent advisory panel to try to address the issue.

“We have lost people from this [problem],” Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said during a July 25 press conference. “Children have died, adults have died and we’re here to do more.”

The panel would have 24 members, including representatives from health and science groups, members of law enforcement, hospital employees and individuals from the Legislature’s Committees on Health, Education and Human Services and would focus on prevention, education, law enforcement and drug rehabilitation across the county, Anker said. The panel is planned to be broken up into sub-committees, which would tackle a specific area.

“This is an issue that needs all hands on deck,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said. “We are not going to arrest ourselves out of this — this is a public health issue [of historic proportion], but law enforcement plays a critical role.”

Over 300 people from Suffolk County died from opioid-related overdosess in 2016, according to county medical examiner records. Sini said that in 2016, the police administered Narcan, a nasal spray used as emergency treatment to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, in Suffolk County over 700 times.

A 2010 bill saw the creation of a similar advisory panel with 13 members, many of whom are members of the new proposed panel. The original, impermanent panel ended five years ago, but had made 48 recommendations to the legislature focused mainly on prevention education, treatment and recovery. Two recommendations from this committee that were put in effect were the Ugly Truth videos shown in public schools, and countywide public Narcan training.

Though proud of the work they did on that panel, members agreed the situation has worsened since it was disbanded.

“[Seven] years ago we stood here and announced the initial panel — I had the privilege of co-chairing that group — a lot of the things we recommended actually happened, some things didn’t,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, chief executive officer of the Family and Children’s Association. “Regardless, the problem hasn’t gotten any better, and in fact, it’s gotten progressively worse. Some of the gaps in prevention, access to treatment, recovery and law enforcement haven’t yet been filled. For us to have an ongoing opportunity to have a dialogue together — to brainstorm some new solution to disrupt the patterns here — is very, very valuable.”

On the education side, Islip School District Superintendent of Schools Susan Schnebel said at the press conference that education has to begin at a very young age.

“It’s important that schools take hold of what happens in the beginning,” she said. “That includes educating students at a very early age, educating the parents to know what’s there, what are the repercussions, what is the law. That needs to happen with a 5 or 6-year-old.”

Executive director of the North Shore Youth Council Janene Gentile, and member of the proposed panel, feels that the advisory panel is an important step. She said she hopes that it will be able to do more in helping prevent people, especially young people, from using opioids in the first place, and hopefully help those exiting rehab.

“Implementing a family component when they are in rehab is really crucial, while they are in rehab and when get out,” Gentile said. “There are other agencies like mine — 28 in Suffolk County. If we can reach out to them they can help with re-entry [into society]. They go on the outside and the triggers that started them on opioids are still there, and they need to have places where there are no drugs. We’ve gone through a lot, but we’ve got to do more — and prevention works.”

As the number of drug-related overdoses on the Long Island grows, one parent refuses to bury his head in the sand.

On the one-year anniversary of his son’s fatal heroin overdose, William Reitzig wasn’t in bed grieving. Instead, the Miller Place parent was on stage at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai asking hundreds of community members to hug one another.

“Hug your loved ones like I hugged my son every day … My hope is that you leave here today with the same mission as my wife and I — that with love and compassion, we have the power to overcome the perils of drug addiction.”

—Michael Reitzig

“Hug your loved ones like I hugged my son every day … don’t let a minute go by without saying ‘I love you,’” Reitzig said to a crowd of emotional parents, extended family members, friends and strangers. “My hope is that you leave here today with the same mission as my wife and I — that with love and compassion, we have the power to overcome the perils of drug addiction.”

That mission resonated throughout Hope Walk for Addiction, an April 22 fundraising event created by Reitzig and co-sponsored by Brookhaven Town and Hope House Ministries — a nonprofit based in Port Jefferson that supports people suffering the disease of addiction.

Reitzig, whose 25-year-old son Billy struggled for years with opioid pills and ultimately died after a one-time use of heroin last April, kickstarted “a war on addiction” by raising awareness, educating about addiction, raising money to help those struggling and unite the community.

“This is [really] for the community — it’s not about me, it’s not about my son, it’s to try and make a difference moving forward,” Reitzig said. “I can’t do anything about the past at this point, but going forward we can all chip in … we’re all in the same boat. Today is about all the families that struggle every day with this disease getting together because this is no longer acceptable and we need to do something.”

The large crowd, mostly loved ones of those battling addiction or those who died from it, collectively walked Cedar Beach’s Nature Pathway in memory of those who overdosed. About a dozen names could be seen on signs along the scenic trail.

“I don’t think people realize how many people are depressed and they don’t know how to handle that and so people self-medicate and that’s part of the issue. Ninety-one young people die every day [from this] and that’s unconscionable.”

—Francis Pizzarelli

Local leaders, self-help experts and bands occupied the stage to address the issue that brought everyone together. Various sponsors, including WALK 97.5 and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, were set up at tables taking donations and educating others, and representatives from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office gave seminars on how to use Narcan, a life-saving nasal spray that can revert the effects of an overdose.

More than 500 people registered for the event, and all proceeds — totaling more than $34,000 at the end of the day — went to Hope House, which currently doesn’t have enough space for the overwhelming amount of people who need its services.

Father Francis Pizzarelli, founder of Hope House, counseled Billy while he was rehabilitating in the facility’s outpatient treatment program for a few months, and ultimately presided over his funeral.

Reitzig worked closely with Pizzarelli, and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), to make the Hope Walk a reality.

“Billy was a loving and caring guy, but like a lot of people today, he had his demons and struggled with that,” Pizzarelli said. “I don’t think people realize how many people are depressed and they don’t know how to handle that and so people self-medicate and that’s part of the issue. Ninety-one young people die every day [from this] and that’s unconscionable. [William] elected to say ‘we’re not going to let this continue, we’re going to do something about it and we’re going to protect the quality of life of all our younger and older people addicted to heroin.’”

This is a time to come together as a community, Pizzarelli added, and celebrate the hope Reitzig embodies.

“We need to help stop the stigmatized feeling that comes with addiction. The users feel alone as it is, they don’t feel proud of themselves. They are good people that made one bad decision.”

—Sue Meyers

“I don’t think I’ve met more resilient, strong, dedicated and passionate people in my whole life as I have in William and his family,” Bonner said. “He’s changing the future of so many people by doing this. We’re losing a generation to addiction and this is an opportunity to lift each other up and strip the layers of shame back. It’s all around us and no community is safe from it.”

Patty Eiserman, of Sound Beach, wore a shirt bearing the face of her nephew David Smallwood, who died in 2013 when he was just 22. She said her goal is to educate children as young as possible so they don’t start using.

“I don’t want to say it’s impossible to get them clean,” she said, “but it’s very, very hard.”

Manorville resident Melanie Ross, whose brother died last year after a 10-year battle with addiction, said the situation ravaged the family. It was the first time she’d attended an even like this.

Sue Meyers, a Setauket resident, said she was walking for her son, Michael Moschetto, a Ward Melville graduate who died in December at 28.

“It’s in his name, but I’m also here to help show support for other people and donate as much money as I have in my pockets,” Meyers said. “We need to help stop the stigmatized feeling that comes with addiction. The users feel alone as it is, they don’t feel proud of themselves. They are good people that made one bad decision. I think events like this really give people hope and a sense of direction.”

SCPD Commissioner Tim Sini speaks at Broohaven Town Hall during a crime awareness event. Photo by Kevin Redding

Drug addiction on the North Shore and across Suffolk County is a complicated problem, so the police department and the community are coming together to come up with strategies to combat it.

One of the reasons Salvatore Pitti, a retired New York City police officer, left the Big Apple to live on Long Island he said in part was to escape drug-related crime. But in recent years, he has seen what he called an alarming uptick in heroin and opioid-related overdoses and deaths in the suburbs — so he decided to do something about it.

“We need to put the fear of God into our kids about this problem.”

— Salvatore Pitti

“We need to put the fear of God into our kids about this problem,” Pitti said April 11 during a Crime Awareness Committee meeting at Brookhaven Town Hall. “I’ve had the misfortune, in my career, to scoop three or four children off the street, dead. I don’t want to see that.”

Pitti, vice president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and leader of a local neighborhood watch group designed to eliminate local criminal activity, co-sponsored the event along with Brookhaven Town.

Joined by several guest speakers including Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson) and Suffolk County Police Department Commissioner Tim Sini, Pitti spoke with local organization leaders and residents about how they can help make their communities safer.

Sini, who became commissioner last year, has already rolled out several initiatives through the SCPD to address the issues of illegal drug sales, abuse and overdoses as well as prevention and recovery in his short time leading the department.

Many of them rely on police department collaboration with the public.

“I can’t tell you the number of times that information from people in this room or from folks like you have helped us solve crimes,” Sini said, highlighting such programs as the NARC hotline, a partnership with Suffolk County Crime Stoppers, where callers can give crime tips anonymously and receive cash rewards for those that lead to arrests.

Another initiative, Sini said, is the Long Island Heroin Task Force, which targets drug dealers causing overdoses and the areas that have the biggest spikes in overdoses through data collected in the department. Programs are also being implemented in local schools that teach about the consequences of taking drugs, offer prevention and recovery steps, and even train parents and teens on how to administer Narcan, the nasal spray used to reverse heroin overdoses.

“We need to get people off drugs and into treatment for recovery,” Sini said. “Please think of ways the SCPD can partner with you to promote drug prevention in your community.”

Cartright said she understands the importance of a partnership with local law enforcement.

“I can’t tell you the number of times that information from people in this room or from folks like you have helped us solve crimes.”

— Tim Sini

“I grew up in Queens, in an urban community where there was a lot of crime, and there was no interaction with the police department the way we interact with the police department here,” the councilwoman said. “They come in and ask, ‘how can we work with you?’ That’s something, 25 years ago, I didn’t have when I was growing up. This is not a problem we can solve alone.”

Pitti said he started the Crime Awareness Committee three years ago to shine a spotlight on a local marijuana dealer in his neighborhood. Due to his effort and a collaboration with neighbors and the police, the dealer was ultimately pushed off the block.

Even though the group has since grown, he said he wants more community involvement.

“When I first started this, I received a civic email list but, unfortunately, it was antiquated and outdated,” he said. “We’re working together on it, to try and fix it and put more emails in. That, to me, is the first problem. If we can’t call each other, how can we help each other?”

He handed out a packet to attendees of the meeting outlining ways to identify dangerous people in the community. The packet gives details on how to check if houses in a neighborhood have rental permits; report town code violations; deter underage drinking at parties and neighborhood gatherings; and a detailed physical description form to fill out upon witnessing suspicious activity.

Present the above “coupon” to Buffalo Wild Wings in Miller Place March 10 to donate 10 percent of your total bill to On Kevin’s Wings. Image from Tracey Farell

On March 10, beginning at 11 a.m., Buffalo Wild Wings in Miller Place will be donating 10 percent of each patron’s bill to On Kevin’s Wings, a nonprofit organization that funds airfare or transportation for those seeking drug or alcohol rehabilitation away from home.

After losing her son Kevin to an accidental overdose in 2012, Tracey Farrell began North Shore Drug Awareness, a Facebook page that provides information and assistance to those asking questions wanting to learn more about how to help a loved one battling addiction or looking for rehabilitation centers.

Farrell began to try to help other families who were also dealing with addicted children, while still dealing with one of her own: her daughter. She sent Brianna out of state and claimed it saved her life.

This prompted her to begin her new venture.

In addition to the funds raised March 10, the location is then, for the following 30 days, donating the same 10 percent of each customer’s bill who presents the Home Team Advantage Teammate Card. It’s good for dining in and take out and  can be presented straight from a cellphone.

On March 10, On Kevin’s Wings will also be doing raffles and 50/50 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Buffalo Wild Wings in Miller Place is located at 385 Route 25A.

Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn and recovering alcoholic and addict David Scofield answer questions posed by concerned parents at a past Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness meeting. File photo by Donna Newman

Heroin addiction can still be seen as a closely guarded secret in North Shore communities, but a couple of Three Village residents are doing their part to try to change that.

About 20 people were present Jan. 22 at the Bates House in Setauket for an informational meeting geared to help the loved ones of those battling heroin addiction. The addicts themselves were not present, but parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and other loved ones were, with the hope of gaining a greater understanding for how to combat the problem.

The gathering was a joint venture of both the public and private sectors, initiated by Lise Hintze, manager of the Bates House, a community venue in Frank Melville Memorial Park.

To help a loved one dealing with addiction call Lise Hintze 631-689-7054

“Pretending we don’t have a drug problem [in our community] only hurts the children and perpetuates the problem,” Hintze said. “I have a 19-year-old and a 21-year-old and we’ve been to too many funerals. Parents say ‘not my child, not in our town’ but it’s very real and it’s happening here.” 

Stony Brook resident Dori Scofield, who lost a son to heroin addiction in 2011, established Dan’s Foundation For Recovery in his memory to provide information and resources to others. Old Field resident Dana Miklos also has a son battling addiction and she wants to share what she has learned to empower parents and help them deal with addiction’s many challenges. The two represent the “private” interests.

“One of the reasons I wanted to come out and talk about it is to give parents ways to navigate through this horrible process,” Scofield said. “From being at the hospital when your son or daughter ODs and you know you have to get them into treatment, but you don’t know [how].”

Scofield said she dialed a 1-800 number someone had given her when her son overdosed and said she lucked out when the placement turned out to be a good one. She told the event attendees they need not “reach out to a stranger” as she did. She can help.

Miklos wants to eliminate the stigma that keeps affected families in hiding.

“I want parents to know the three Cs: they didn’t cause it, they can’t cure it, and they can’t control it,” she said. “We become so isolated [dealing with an addicted child] just when we should be talking to other parents, supporting each other.”   

Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who has been working to alleviate the community’s drug problem since taking office, also participated in the event.

“In 2012, the first year I was in office, I couldn’t believe this would be something I could work on and change,” Hahn said. “But I wrote legislation that got Narcan — which is an antidote for opioid overdoses — for our police sector cars. Within a matter of days we were saving one, two, three a day. Within two weeks we had an officer who had two saves back to back.”

Hahn said she authored another bill that would make sure there was a follow-up for each person saved. A Narcan reversal saves a life, but does nothing to end the need for the drug and the cravings. The second piece of legislation tasks the health department with reaching out to those saved to attempt to get them into treatment.

A third piece of legislation she wrote provides training for lay people — like the group assembled at the Bates House — to carry and use Narcan. She encouraged all present to be trained and prepared.

The statistics Hahn gave for Narcan saves showed a steady increase over the last five years. In 2012 after passage of the legislation in August, there were 325 saves. Numbers rose year by year to 475 in 2013, 493 in 2014, 542 in 2015 and 681 in 2016 when at least 240 people died of overdoses, according to Hahn.

David Scofield, who has been sober for three years, delivered a message of hope for those in attendance.

“I don’t have the answers,” he said. “I do know how [it is] to be a kid struggling with drug addiction. This thing is killing people. Hundreds of people are dying from heroin addiction every day and you don’t hear about it. That’s just the truth.”

Scofield’s message also included a plea for loved ones of addicts to get past the stigma of addiction and bring the conversation to the community. As long as people hide the cause of death, he said, he believes kids will continue to die.

For information about this support group, call Lise Hintze 631-689-7054.

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