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.”