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Addiction

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Anthony Forte, left, leaves behind his mother Debbie Carpinone, right, and 21-year-old brother Christopher. Photo from Debbie Carpinone

Anthony Michael Forte was a 24-year-old who got good grades in high school and went home to a loving family. He dreamed of a pursuing a career in the entertainment or food industries — until he died of a heroin overdose on May 2, 2015.

Forte is the new face of heroin addicts on Long Island.

While the drug problem continues to rise, his mother, Debbie Carpinone, is doing what she can to keep her spirits high and her son’s alive. Last October, Carpinone, of Port Jefferson, created Anthony’s Angels and established a $1,000 scholarship in Forte’s name.

The scholarship will help send one Mount Sinai High School senior to college this year. Carpinone, who works as a teaching assistant for the Mount Sinai Elementary School, wanted to pay it forward and give one student a chance to do the one thing her son couldn’t — go to school.

“He was so smart,” she said. “He wanted to go to school so bad, but he just couldn’t get his act together due to his addiction.”

The teaching assistant of 13 years sold 128 “Anthony’s Angels” T-shirts last year for the fundraiser of the same name. She raised $1,610 and also established a Facebook group. She approached Mount Sinai Elementary School Principal John Gentilcore in January regarding her son’s death and her scholarship, Gentilcore said.

He said it was easier for the small school district to spread the word about the scholarship. Forte was Carpinone’s eldest son, who went to Comsewogue High School until 2006, before he graduated from Newfield High School in 2008. His mother said even when he hit tough times, Forte remained loving and always had a smile on his face.

According to Carpinone, her son started using heroin in his junior year of high school. He told her about his addiction around two years later, and was in and out of sober houses.

“Talking about the loss of a child, if that doesn’t move you, if that doesn’t evoke a response to support and help … then I’d be surprised,” Gentilcore said. “She was honoring her son. To be able to do that in a way that helps others is a wonderful thing.”

Forte’s autopsy showed high levels of fentanyl in his system. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is more potent than morphine. Carpinone said she discovered the identity of her son’s dealers, their address and their contact information. She provided Detective Ghyslaine McBean with this information, but said the detective hasn’t returned her call since November. McBean didn’t respond to media inquiries prior to publication.

While tackling the issue of drug use on Long Island is important for many communities across Long Island, acknowledging the evolution of heroin addicts and other drug abusers is also vital.

Carpinone said some people still think all heroin users are dirtbags or come from terrible homes, which is not the case. Tracey Budd, who lost her son to a heroin overdose four years ago, met Carpinone last year. Budd, who helps families dealing with addiction, said nowadays, anyone could become a drug addict.

“The majority of people I know [who are affected by a drug addiction] all come from good families or good homes,” Budd said. “The thing we learn in addiction is, we didn’t cause it.”

By Elana Glowatz

A 24-hour substance abuse hotline went live on April 1, providing Suffolk County residents with a new resource to help with battling addiction.

The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence is operating the new hotline — 631-979-1700 — and will help callers get screenings, referrals and follow-ups, directing them to local resources that will help them or loved ones overcome addiction.

A flyer advertises a new substance abuse hotline. Image from the Suffolk County health department
A flyer advertises a new substance abuse hotline. Image from the Suffolk County health department

Officials announced the initiative at the end of February, calling it a partnership between the county, Stony Brook Medicine and the state’s health department, as well as private and public community partners in the substance abuse field. Those officials said having a single phone number for all those resources is key.

“This initiative will provide [the] opportunity for addicts to reach out during their time of need and access treatment and support options easily,” Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said in a previous statement. “Often, there is a critical and brief period of time when a person sees clarity and makes the decision to seek help. This hotline can be fertile ground for change and recovery as it can quickly link residents to crucial health care services.”

LICADD itself noted in a recent statement about the hotline that “the time to seek treatment is ‘now’” and that sometimes the “now” is late at night, early in the morning or on weekends or holidays. The agency also said that the period in which an addict is willing to get treatment could close without immediate help, due to “the pathology of denial, obsession and fear which often defines substance use disorders.”

Community leaders have ramped up efforts to fight opioid addiction in recent years while seeing an increase in heroin and prescription painkiller abuse and overdoses across Suffolk County. Those efforts have included more directed police enforcement and informational meetings. Police officers have also started carrying the medication Narcan, which can temporarily stop opioid overdoses and has been used hundreds of times in Suffolk.

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who authored the law that put Narcan into officers’ hands, said about the new hotline, “Every second counts to a mother whose son or daughter was found and saved from overdosing. And every hour and every day that slips by trying to find quality, affordable, accessible treatment is critical.”

For 24/7 substance abuse help, call 631-979-1700.

To report drug activity to the police, call 631-852-NARC.

The county health department will provide oversight and analyze data to monitor the hotline’s effectiveness, and identify trends and emerging issues in the community.

At the same time the drug abuse hotline went live, the Suffolk County Police Department announced another phone number, this one a 24-hour tip line for residents to report drug activity in their neighborhoods.

“We are asking the public’s help to fight this scourge, and with the public’s help, we can make a real difference,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said in a statement.

Residents can call 631-852-NARC anonymously to report information about local drug dealers, and authorities will investigate the tips. Even anonymous callers can receive cash rewards for tips that lead to arrests.

“If you see something, say something and Suffolk County police will do something about it,” Sini said.

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File photo

By Kevin Redding

“We have a problem, and that problem is heroin. It’s a harsh reality.”

Setauket Fire Commissioner Jay Gardiner spoke at length about the heroin and opiate addiction issue that has swept Suffolk County at a Three Village Civic Association meeting at the Emma S. Clark Library on Monday night.

As guest speaker, Gardiner addressed the importance of having a dialogue with teens and children about the dangerous consequences of these specific drugs and staying on top of how much medication people consume to avoid overdoses. Gardiner also said it was important that residents recognize why heroin has become so prevalent.

According to Gardiner, the county’s affluence plays a large factor.

“Among the most common hard drugs, including methamphetamine and crack, heroin is the most expensive,” Gardiner said. “Out on the South Shore and other areas on Long Island that have different financial demographics, cheap drugs like methamphetamine and crack are much more obtainable while heroin isn’t. High schoolers and college students in Suffolk County, whose ages make up the majority of users, might have an ability to buy the more expensive drug.”

In the United States, drug overdose deaths have exceeded car crashes as the number one cause of injury death, according to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Two Americans die of drug overdoses every hour and 2,500 youths aged between 12 and 17 abuse prescription drugs for the first time every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids — a class of drugs that include prescription pain medications and heroin — were involved in 28,648 deaths nationwide in 2014.

Gardiner admitted that he can’t lecture on how to control every North Shore kid’s behavior, however, and steered his presentation less on how to prevent the drug use and more on how to recognize when somebody is experiencing an overdose and being able to take the appropriate steps to save their lives. He specifically focused on using the anti-opiate overdose antidote Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan.

Gardiner said he knows of hundreds of cases just last year in which Narcan saved someone’s life from overdose in Suffolk County, and said that number is growing exponentially.

“We use this atomizing medication Narcan when the person we see is not responding,” said Gardiner, who demonstrated how to exert the intranasal spray into each of the patient’s nostrils. “You will revive these patients, if you’re fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, in minutes. We use the nose because it’s a large area where it will be absorbed to the bloodstream and remove the opiate effects in that bloodstream quickly.”

As Gardiner explained in his presentation, it’s nearly impossible to find an IV on a patient who has just overdosed because the veins are often badly sclerosed, as indicated by track marks all over the arm. On top of a quick and effective route for absorption, by using the nose as an entry, there’s a much lower risk of exposure to blood.

Because Narcan is also effective against more commonly taken opiate drugs, pain reducers like morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl, older people especially should be aware of how it’s used in a worst case scenario where too many pills are taken to subside an excruciating pain, and an overdose occurs.

Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Three Village Civic Association who brought Gardiner in to speak, says that despite the war on drugs in our country being a failure socially and medically, normal everyday people can make a difference now.

“It’s like having a fire extinguisher in your house,” said Nuzzo. “It’s not gonna fix faulty wiring, but it’s good to have it there if you need it. It’s so important that people learn how to use antidotes like this. People need to learn how to use a fire extinguisher and they need to learn how to use Narcan.”

Earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that pharmacies across New York State would be providing Narcan to its customers without prescription, making it an extremely convenient and important addition to every resident’s medicine cabinet.

“Addiction’s an illness,” Gardiner said. “If you’re a diabetic, you carry insulin. If you’re bipolar, you have drugs to treat bipolar illness. We can’t treat addiction with drugs but we can certainly have these things around in case of an emergency because it is an illness and it’s so important to have this in your home. We can’t cure the addiction, but we can save the life even if it’s only temporarily.”

File photo

The path to overcoming opioid addiction will soon be just a phone call away, thanks to a new initiative that the Suffolk County Legislature announced last week.

A new full-service substance abuse hotline will serve as what officials called a lifeline to residents battling drug addiction, which lawmakers have been struggling to address across Long Island for years. To get there, the county teamed up with Stony Brook Medicine and the state’s health department as well as the county’s private and public community partners in the substance abuse field to allow residents to call to get screenings, referrals and follow-ups.

The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence will operate the 24-hour hotline and direct callers to those resources. Providing a single phone number to call for a myriad of resources and services is key to assisting those who are battling addiction and their families, officials said.

“Like many places in this country, Suffolk County is facing an opioid epidemic of historic proportions,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. “We need to tackle this epidemic on all fronts — including prevention, treatment and law enforcement.”

Bellone said his administration has made it a top priority to “explore and launch new, evidence-based tools” to help address the region’s fight against heroin and opioid use.

“The creation of a local 24/7 hotline is now another tool in our arsenal to assist those who are battling opioid and heroin addiction and their families,” he said.

The hotline will become live by April, Bellone said, and the Suffolk County health department will provide oversight and analyze data to monitor its effectiveness and identify trends and emerging issues in the community.

“Every second counts to a mother whose son or daughter was found and saved from overdosing,” said Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). The majority leader was the author of several laws credited with preventing more than 1,000 opioid overdoses in Suffolk County since the summer of 2012, including one that gave police access to Narcan, a medicine that stops such overdoses. “And every hour and every day that slips by trying to find quality, affordable, accessible treatment is critical.”

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said the initiative is essential, as heroin deaths in the county have nearly tripled since 2010.

“This alarming data demands our immediate attention,” he said. “A centralized hotline for people in crisis is a critical step toward saving lives, but we must do more. My colleagues and I look forward to our continued work with both the county executive and officials from Nassau County as together we fight to stem Long Island’s heroin epidemic.”

County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) echoed the same sentiments and said the area’s substance abuse issue was pervasive and touched the lives of more than those who suffered from addiction.

“This initiative will provide [the] opportunity for addicts to reach out during their time of need and access treatment and support options easily,” he said. “Often, there is a critical and brief period of time when a person sees clarity and makes the decision to seek help. This hotline can be fertile ground for change and recovery as it can quickly link residents to crucial health care services.”

Police say they seized drugs and cash from a Coram home last week. Photo from SCPD

Police will execute more search warrants and make more arrests at known hotspots for drug activity under a new initiative officials announced over the weekend.

The same day police arrested a father and son and seized more than a kilogram of drugs from the father’s home, the Suffolk County Police Department said it is focusing more on shutting down houses in residential areas where drug activity is suspected to be taking place.

That father-son pair was nabbed on Jan. 29, police said, after investigators executed a search warrant on a Coram home and found 730 grams of cocaine, 318 grams of heroin, 36 grams of oxycodone and $200,000 in cash. It was just the most recent in a string of busts through the initiative, which uses detectives from the Special Operations Team “to work with residents to obtain information on who is dealing and where,” according to an SCPD statement. “Armed with that information, detectives will be executing more search warrants of drug houses and making felony arrests at those locations.”

The effort is “fueled in part by residents’ complaints,” the SCPD said in the recent press release.

Police officials at a Jan. 26 civic meeting at the Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station had reported raids at three local drug houses in the week leading up to the meeting, two in Gordon Heights and one in Centereach. At the latter location, 6th Precinct Inspector Bill Murphy said, cops busted a repeat offender and caught him with 4 ounces of cocaine and 2 ounces of heroin.

Police say they seized drugs and cash from a Coram home last week. Photo from SCPD
Police say they seized drugs and cash from a Coram home last week. Photo from SCPD

“He’s going away for a long time,” Murphy said.

In the police department’s announcement of its new initiative, it said investigators had executed nine search warrants in the several weeks since the effort started, seizing thousands of grams of drugs — including crack cocaine and heroin — as well as seven guns, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and drug paraphernalia.

“This new narcotics initiative will target residences where drug dealing is occurring,” Acting Police Commissioner Tim Sini said in a statement. “Drug houses in our neighborhoods degrade our sense of community, public safety and quality of life.”

In the Jan. 29 bust, 40-year-old Joseph Fearon, who police said lived at the Avalon Pines Drive home, was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, four counts of third-degree criminal possession and two counts of second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia.

Fearon’s attorney, Central Islip-based Glenn Obedin, did not return a call seeking a comment on his client.

The defendant’s son, 23-year-old Jasheme Fearon, a Middle Island resident, was charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and second-degree criminal impersonation. Police also said that he was arrested on a New York State parole warrant and a bench warrant.

Attorney information for the younger Fearon was not available.

Drug activity can create spikes in other types of crimes. At the civic meeting last week in the Comsewogue library, Murphy said overall crime has dropped in his precinct but heroin arrests have doubled in the last five years — from 148 in 2011 to 298 last year — and the addicts are behind many of the area’s burglaries and robberies.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the serious crimes we have are driven by drug abuse: [The perpetrators are] addicted to heroin and they’re so addicted to it, they have to get money to go and buy these drugs,” he said.

He and Officer Will Gibaldi invited Port Jefferson Station and Terryville residents at the civic meeting, including some who expressed their frustrations and fears relating to local drug activity, to reach out to them if they have a problem in their neighborhoods.

“If you contact me with a problem, you will get a response,” the inspector said. “You will not be ignored.”

The police’s new drug-house initiative is likewise geared toward responding to community members’ concerns.

“Working together with our law enforcement partners and sharing information is imperative to getting dangerous drugs off our streets and out of our communities,” Legislator Sarah Anker said in a statement about the crackdown on community drug dealing. “If you see something, say something.”

Narcan, a drug that stops opioid overdoses. File photo by Jessica Suarez

Concerned that a loved one will overdose on drugs? Suffolk County is hosting training classes over the next few months to teach residents how to identify overdoses of opioid drugs — such as heroin, Vicodin and Percocet — and use the anti-overdose medication Narcan to rescue victims.

The county’s parting gift for people who show up to the program is an emergency resuscitation kit that contains Narcan as well as a certificate of completion.

The first class, on Feb. 4, will be a bit of a hike away, at the Mattituck firehouse on Pike Street from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (RSVP to ihateheroin631@gmail.com).

There will be another in Greenlawn on Feb. 12, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Harborfields library on Broadway (RSVP to Sheila Sullivan at 631-271-8025 or sullivans@nysa.us).

A third will take place on Feb. 18 in Wyandanch, at the Wyandanch Community Resource Center on Straight Path from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (RSVP to 631-643-1960 or mthomas@townofbabylon.com).

Following a March 3 course in Bohemia, at the Connetquot Public Library on Ocean Avenue from 6 to 7 p.m. (RSVP to 631-665-2311), the county is holding one at the Setauket firehouse on Nicolls Road. That event, on Thursday, March 31, will run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Participants can RSVP to 631-854-1650 or seth.squicciarino@suffolkcountyny.gov.

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CN Guidance & Counseling Services is setting up shop at Horizons Counseling & Education Center on Main Street in Smithtown. Photo by Jared Cantor

The fight against drug abuse has a new home in Smithtown.

In response to a multiyear surge of heroin and opiate pill use across the North Shore and greater Long Island, CN Guidance & Counseling Services, which works on addressing substance use and mental health disorders, has launched outpatient detoxification and withdrawal support services to residents of Smithtown.

Two new sites — one at Horizons Counseling & Education Center at 161 East Main St. in Smithtown and the other at CN Guidance’s main office at 950 S. Oyster Bay Road in Hicksville — have begun delivering a combination of services to local residents addicted to opiates. The services, supported by funds from both county governments, include assessment, detoxification, symptom relief with addiction medications, monitoring of vital signs and instant connection to longer-term treatment and relapse prevention.

Heroin killed a record-high 144 people on Long Island in 2013, a death toll increasing 91 percent in Nassau County and 163 percent in Suffolk County since just 2010, CN said in a statement. Opioid pills, including oxycodone, were linked to 343 additional deaths on Long Island in 2012 and 2013.

“We are filling a critical gap,” said Jeffrey Friedman, chief executive officer of CN Guidance. “The havoc connected to untreated opiate addiction on Long Island has been slicing through our Long Island families and communities. These new outpatient detoxification and support services are enabling opiate-addicted individuals — and their families — to receive the help they need immediately, with no lag in connection to the longer-term treatment and recovery services they need after detoxification. If you know someone in need, please call us.”

During a studied nine-month period in 2013, 4,409 individuals requested detoxification services in Nassau County, but only 26 percent, or 1,157, were actually admitted, according to Nassau County’s Department of Human Services, Office of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Developmental Disabilities Services. Suffolk County struggles analogously.

Data from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services show that 85 percent of detoxification in New York State is done in hospitals, often with long waits, at high costs and lacking results, whereas other states use such hospital-based detoxification primarily for medically or psychiatrically complicated cases. The new outpatient programs offer an alternative for the many residents who face mild to moderate severity of withdrawal from opiates, rather than severe withdrawal most commonly associated with emergency-level crises.

Because CN Guidance is a comprehensive behavioral health services provider that offers full-service care coordination, it is able to link clients in the new outpatient programs immediately to a whole array of often- needed services ranging from mental health counseling and treatment to long-term substance use treatment.

Residents and other service providers in either county may call 516-822-6111 to accesDs the program.

People at an anti-drug forum stay afterward to learn how to use the anti-overdose medication Narcan. Above, someone practices spraying into a dummy’s nostrils. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The Suffolk County Police Department handed out dozens of overdose rescue kits in the Port Jefferson high school on Monday night, at the conclusion of a crowded drug abuse prevention forum geared toward educating parents.

“We have to double-down on prevention,” said Tim Sini, a deputy county commissioner for public safety who has recently been nominated for police commissioner.

People at an anti-drug forum stay afterward to learn how to use the anti-overdose medication Narcan. Above, Jim Laffey assembles a syringe. Photo by Elana Glowatz
People at an anti-drug forum stay afterward to learn how to use the anti-overdose medication Narcan. Above, Jim Laffey assembles a syringe. Photo by Elana Glowatz

He and other officials from the police department, medical examiner’s office and community spoke at the forum to inform parents about the dangers of drug abuse, including how kids get introduced to and hooked on drugs in the first place. Much of the discussion focused on opioid drugs, which include heroin as well as prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet, and on the lifesaving Narcan, an anti-overdose medication that blocks opioid receptors in the brain and can stop an overdose of those types of drugs.

According to Dr. Scott Coyne, the SCPD’s chief surgeon and medical director, in the three years since Suffolk officers have been trained to administer Narcan — the well-known brand name for naloxone — they have used it successfully 435 times.

Attendees who stayed after the forum were able to register in the police department’s public Narcan program and receive a kit with two doses of the medication, which can be sprayed into an overdose victim’s nostrils.

Narcan training classes are coming up
Want to learn how to use Narcan, the medication that stops an opioid overdose in its tracks? Training courses are taking place across Suffolk County over the next couple of months, including in Port Jefferson and in neighboring Centereach.

Narcan, the brand name of naloxone, blocks receptors in the brain to stop overdoses of drugs like heroin, Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin or Demerol, among others. It can be administered through a nasal spray and will not cause harm if mistakenly given to someone who is not suffering an opioid overdose.

The local training sessions meet state health requirements, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, and will teach trainees to recognize opioid overdoses, to administer Narcan and to take other steps until emergency medical personnel arrive on the scene. All participants will receive a certificate of completion and an emergency kit that includes Narcan.

The first course will be held on Monday, Dec. 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the county’s Office of Health Education in Hauppauge, at 725 Veterans Highway, Building C928. RSVP to 631-853-4017 or wanda.ortiz@suffolkcountyny.gov.

In Centereach, a course will take place on Friday, Jan. 15, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Middle Country library at 101 Eastwood Blvd. RSVP before Jan. 11 at alonsobarbara@middlecountrylibrary.org or at 631-585-9393 ext. 213.

Later that month, Hope House Ministries will host another Narcan training session in its facility at 1 High St. in Port Jefferson, in the Sister Aimee Room. That event, held in conjunction with the Port Jefferson ambulance company, will take place on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 10 a.m. Call 631-928-2377 for more information or register at https://pjvac.enrollware.com/enroll?id=952865.

Debra Bauer at a recent Sachem Public Library Local Author Fair with husband Stephen and daughters, from left, Jennifer and Lisa. Photo from Debra Bauer

By Rita J. Egan

While working on her first book, “Through a Family’s Eyes: A True Story,” Debra Lindner Bauer from Ronkonkoma wrote her way out of the darkest period in her life. For years, the former stay-at-home mom now grandmother, was overcome by grief after the tragic death in 2007 of her 27-year-old son, Stephen J. Bauer Jr.

In the book, the author presents a raw and honest look at what family members, especially parents, endure after the loss of a young person. Bauer is frank about her experiences and feelings after the motor vehicle accident that took her son’s life, and in addition to her own writings, she included contributions from family members and friends, which provide a larger picture of the depth of loss.

Bauer, who admits she cried nonstop for three years, said in a recent interview, “There isn’t a day that goes by that my husband and I, and all of us, don’t miss him.”

The writer said she and her family will never know exactly what happened on that icy night, but from what emergency workers could decipher, Steve’s car slid on the ice and hit a mailbox and then a tree. The young man, who was on his way to meet his father to help him plow, hit the side glass of his vehicle and bled out, outside his truck.

Debra Bauer with her pooches, from left, Cody, Mustang Sally and Brandy.  Photo from Bauer
Debra Bauer with her pooches, from left, Cody, Mustang Sally and Brandy. Photo from Bauer

After receiving a call from her son’s girlfriend at 10:30 p.m. on the night of Feb. 25, 2007, Bauer and her husband, Stephen, raced to the scene of the accident. Emergency personnel couldn’t allow them to go near their son at the site of the accident, so Bauer followed them to the hospital. When she arrived, the nurse told her that they had just cleaned Steve up, and she could talk to him. After a few minutes, the nurse informed her that the doctors were ready to work on him, but the health professional checked his pulse and found he had none.

“There our journey began,” Bauer said. The accident devastated the writer, her husband and their two daughters, Jennifer and Lisa. “You’re never the same again,” she said.

After the passing of her son, Bauer was overwhelmed by the amount of people who offered their condolences and support. One subject the writer touches on in her book is some of the things people say to someone who has lost a loved one, both appropriate and inappropriate.

“I don’t take it personally, because they don’t know what to say to you,” Bauer said.

The author admitted that a few people said insensitive things, such as that she should be happy because at least she had her son for 27 years. She suggested that, when people don’t know what to say, to just hug the person, even though she said it brightens her day when someone mentions Stephen by name and a memory of him. She explained that the first few years, people would be a bit uncomfortable when she would bring up his name.

The author also suggested that a great way to help a grieving family is by dropping off some home-cooked food or picking up groceries instead of flowers. She said families receive so many flowers after a loved one passes that sometimes they go to waste. After her son’s funeral, Bauer brought the flowers home and set them on her lawn because she couldn’t bear to just throw them out.

The author said that even though it’s still difficult, the first few years were the hardest. Bauer said she couldn’t get off the couch, turned to alcohol and even prescription pills. While she’s been clean for 4 years now, she admits to being addicted to Percocet for 3 years.

“I have come a very long way, and I’m lucky to be alive to tell the story too,” Bauer said.

Writing the book provided a way of managing her pain that was even better than exercising or social activities, according to the author. Earlier in the writing process, Bauer didn’t even use a computer, because she said she never had the patience to learn how to use one.

She started recording her memories of her son’s life, and her feelings about his passing, a year-and-a-half after losing him, by writing them down on paper. When she completed her writings, her sister-in-law Kathy typed them up and edited them. After she sent the manuscript to the publisher, it was in their hands for two years and Bauer had to work on 13 revisions.

Now that the book is released, the author is proud that she realized she had to do more than sit around on the couch and has been able to share her son’s story.

“Everybody says you’re so happy, you glow now. I accomplished something huge in my life,” she said.

Even her 16-year-old grandson, who recently read the book about his father, said after he finished, “You’ve come a long way, Grandma.”

Bauer continues to keep herself busy promoting her book and is currently designing sympathy cards for those who have lost a child. The writer said that she and others who have lost children have found that there aren’t many suitable cards for parents.

While Bauer admits that things will never be the same for her and her family, she now knows that things can improve. The writer is feeling better than she has in a long time, and she hopes that parents who share her sorrow will read “Through a Family’s Eyes” so they know that they are not alone. She also hopes that parents who haven’t experienced such a tragedy will read the book so they can understand what a family goes through and have more empathy.

“People can learn things. Maybe they can be even more appreciative of their kids,” she said.

Bauer’s advice to other grieving parents is, “Find something that makes you happy. I think writing is great therapy. They could always use new books out there — true stories. There might be people that just want to hear your story, especially if it’s true.”

“Through a Family’s Eyes: A True Story” is available on Amazon.com and at www.debralindnerbauer.com for $23.

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Smithtown Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Bradshaw. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

On Tuesday, Dec. 1, Smithtown Central School District, in conjunction with the Suffolk County Police Department, its PTAs and Project Presence, will host an important community forum, “The Ugly Truth: Heroin and Prescription Drug Education and Awareness.”

The forum, which is open to all Smithtown community residents, begins at 7 p.m. at Smithtown High School West, 100 Central Road, Smithtown. Content to be discussed is most appropriate for children aged 15 years and older.

During the event, attendees will be provided with information on the dangers of prescription medication and heroin abuse, how to recognize the signs of drug abuse among teenagers and tools and actions parents can take to help their child.

The program will also feature a question and answer period and training on Narcan, a prescription medication that can reverse an overdose by blocking the effects of opioids. Additionally, SCPD’s Operation Medicine Cabinet will be on hand to safely discard expired or unwanted prescription medication.

“Our goal is to increase education and awareness and build protective factors and preventative skills for families with a series of follow-up workshops,” said Jennifer Bradshaw, Smithtown Central School District assistant superintendent for instruction.