Coalition facing the drug problem with a united front

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Since the North Shore Coalition Against Substance was created in June, its board has worked to develop a mission statement, bylaws and programming to combat drug-related issues in the area.

In an effort to incorporate community input into its agenda, the board hosted a workshop during its meeting at the North Shore Community Youth Organization on Monday. More than 70 people attended.

“Our community is in serious crisis,” said Diane McGrath, NSCASA’s president. “Young children are fighting for their lives, which is why we formulated this alliance. [Tonight] we want to collect ideas and priorities from the community to identify what we need for our prevention programs.”

NSCASA enlisted members of the Long Island Prevention Resource Center to lead the workshop. The center’s director, Pamela Mizzi, began the discussion by identifying four coalition “sectors” — parents, schools, youth, and the community at large (business owners, law enforcement and the media).

“Substance-abuse prevention is a community concern,” Mizzi said, “and the responsibility to combat these issues does not belong to one sector alone.”

Attendees discussed the community’s short- and long-term goals in its battle against substance abuse. “I want to participate to make sure my kids will grow up in a safe environment that stands up against this issue,” said Claudine Gallo, of Old Brookville, who has three children, ages 15, 8 and 6, in the Glen Head school district.

Students and parents alike complained that when it comes to underage drinking or substance use on school grounds, there’s little pushback from the community to stop it. “We always hear, ‘Don’t drink and drive,’ but we never hear, ‘Don’t drink,’” said Ethan Baron, a junior at North Shore High School.

Suggestions from participants included integrating NSCASA drug education information into the district curriculum, stricter enforcement of social host laws, inviting speakers to promote student education, and creating stronger connections between parents and their children to help prevent drug use at home.

“With any new endeavor, it takes a while to get organized,” said Kathleen Reynolds, a Sea Cliff resident and district parent, “but I think having concrete ideas to work on and bring to the North Shore Board of Ed will help.”

Joanna Commander, an adviser to the NSCASA board, said that getting community members involved brings prevention to the forefront. “I understand there’s a concern of being repetitious,” she said, “but it’s the only way to get everyone to understand what’s happening and how it has to happen.”

Joe Giordano, a Glen Head resident, explained that he had a personal connection to the coalition’s efforts: He lost his son to substance abuse in 2015. Joseph Giordano Jr., who attended North Shore High School, died of a heroin overdose at age 18. “If we don’t make any changes through the schools,” his father said, “we’re going to lose more kids.”