Putnam’s heroin scourge has reached epidemic proportions with 38 young people fatally overdosing since 2012 and arrests increasing countywide for heroin sales and possession by more than 300 percent.
The startling revelations were made Friday at a forum in Mahopac attended by school and town officials from throughout the Putnam, northern Westchester, south- ern Dutchess region—a gettogether coordinated by State Senator Greg Ball and the Putnam Valley based Peers Influence Peers Program.
Ball told the gathering: “Many of us in suburban areas a decade ago looked at the drug crisis as a city issue believing it was not our problem. Now our kids are dying at an alarming rate. We may have done a good job at cracking down on prescription drug abuse but like a balloon—when squeezed down on one end, the air goes elsewhere—now heroin is the drug of choice. It has a cheap street value. Mess with it once and you die!”
Putnam Legislator and Putnam Valley Assistant High School Principal Sam Oliverio believes that “parental education is key to stemming the tide of heroin abuse. The first step is to get those addicted to heroin assistance. Parents must get to know the signs—depression, up moods that suddenly crash, teens and young adults who leave the house in the middle of the night for an unknown reason. These are the telltale signs that parents need to become aware of.”
Chief Sheriff’s Investigator Gerald Schramek outlined a three pronged approach toward curing the epidemic: “Education and awareness is of paramount importance along with making arrests for those providing the illegal drugs and prosecuting those who are selling this poison.”
Putnam Deputy Commissioner of Social Services Joseph DeMarzo, who cochairs the Communities that Care Coalition, encouraged the audience to “educate young and old alike and keep talking to our teens advising how dangerous shooting up with heroin actually is.”
Frank Reale, coordinator of Peers Influence Peers, showed a seven minute clip of a new documentary titled “Chasing It” that was produced by the local group.
A parent interviewed, Douglas Greenwich of Putnam Valley, explained the pain and heartache he and his family experienced when losing a son to a heroin overdose.
Putnam Valley Superintendent of Schools Fran Wills called on parents to take an active role: “Schools can’t control a child’s home life. We can provide a concrete sense of belonging in school but children are under our care for less than one third of the day.”
Brewster Superintendent Tim Conway agreed: “We all must fight this disease from all fronts—school and home.”
Brian Alm, principal of Haldane High School in Cold Spring, said many people still have the misconception of drug addicts “lying in city streets with a needle in their arm. The real evil is in a family’s medicine cabinet. Young people start out with a single pill to enhance a high that quickly leads to snorting a crushed pill that advances to stronger substances like heroin. Our task is to help youngsters understand that it is not a big leap from a pill to an overdose with a needle in their arm.”
Ball stressed in order for the epidemic to be controlled, a “total community effort is needed.” (ARTICLE)