Local Leaders Surveyed on Drug Abuse

Prescription drugs and heroin the biggest problem

By Michael Turton

More than 40 people, including many local leaders, turned out for a breakfast meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 16) at the North Highlands Firehouse in Cold Spring to discuss an ongoing effort to curb drug abuse among young adults. The event was organized by the Putnam County Communities That Care Coalition, which is funded through a federal grant and aspires to “build a safe and healthy family-oriented community, which includes reducing the use of harmful substances.”

A broad cross section of the community was represented at the 90-minute discussion, including county, town and village officials; the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department and Cold Spring Police Department; the Haldane and Garrison School Districts and Haldane PTA; the Butterfield and Desmond-Fish libraries, churches, business owners, both local newspapers and social services personnel.

The meeting surveyed “key leaders” to determine what they see as the nature of risky behavior among young people, including drug abuse, as well their view of possible causes and solutions.

Kristin McConnell, executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, based in New York City, said surveys of local parents and young adults between 18 and 25 are underway, and the resulting data can be used to help determine strategies for combating drug abuse. Doreen Lockwood, director of Putnam Family & Community Services in Carmel, indicated that early results from the survey of young people include very different responses from those of older stakeholders.

Bruce Kelly, coordinator of the Putnam County Communities That Care Coalition, said that while everyone hopes for “instant answers” in solving the drug problem, solutions “are not easy and take time.” Change, he said, starts with education and awareness. The survey will provide a “snapshot” that can build better awareness of the situation in Philipstown.

What the survey said

The brief survey, which was presented to those at the meeting, includes six questions. Respondents can select up to three “best” answers from multiple-choice responses, submitted through electronic devices provided by the coalition. Here are the results breakfast. (Because there were not enough devices for everyone present, some paper surveys were also used, and those results are not included in the totals.) The figures represent the number of responses.

What do you think is the biggest problem for young people?
Prescription drugs and heroin (34); Underage drinking (29); Marijuana (24). Other answers included tobacco/e-cigarettes, bullying and gambling.

Why do you think young people engage in these risky behaviors?
Low perception of risk of harm (29); Peer pressure (26); Parental attitudes favoring alcohol/drug use (23). Other answers: boredom, no place to hang out, easy access, family disconnect.

Where do you think young people engage in these risky behaviors?
Friend’s house (35); Parks/outside (28); The woods (25). Other answers: home, school, train station.

Why do you think parents hold attitudes that are favorable toward alcohol/drug use?
Parents are aware but don’t know what to do (35); Parents engage in substance abuse (29); Parents are not aware/clueless (22). Other answers: parents do not care, some parents encourage or permit use.

How do these risky behaviors affect the community as a whole?
Commission of petty crimes (theft, trespass) (25); Poor performance in school (24); Expending community resources (17). Other answers: DWI/DWAI arrests, diminished community value, unprotected sex, physical injury.

What do you think should be done to address these problems?
School-based prevention and parents’ workshops (31); Pro-social activities for youth (26); Environmental strategies (21). Other answers: media campaigns, increased consequences for youth, increased law enforcement.

No finger pointing

“We’re here because there’s a problem” affecting young people in the community, Kelly said. “Risky behavior — not just drugs.” He said the Communities That Care Coalition is an attempt to work together “instead of finger pointing.” A common mistake is to simply blame local schools for the drug problem, he said, when in reality it is a community-wide issue.

Since it was established in November 2014, the Philipstown coalition has undertaken a number of initiatives, McConnell said. Besides the ongoing surveys, they include two public presentations of the results of a drug-use survey of Haldane students, training of 25 residents in the use of Narcan to counteract heroin overdoses and pushing for the installation of a drop box for expired prescription drugs.

Standing up for kids

“After 10 months of coalition building and in direct response to the recent tragedies, today every corner of our community came together, to stand together for our kids,” Gina Van Nosdall, a member of the Philipstown Coalition, wrote in an email to The Paper. “Philipstown may be small but our numbers and resolve this morning were mighty..”

While Van Nosdall’s email alluded to it, Wednesday’s meeting made no specific mention of the deaths of several Philipstown young adults by drug overdose in recent months and years.

The Philipstown Coalition’s next meeting will take place at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, at the Desmond-Fish Library in Garrison. For more information, email Van Nosdall at ginavannosdall@gmail.com. Putnam Valley, Carmel and Mahopac also have developed coalitions.


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One thought on “Local Leaders Surveyed on Drug Abuse

  1. I commend all the efforts made by both dedicated and concerned people of our great town to have first the courage to not just address the risks that confront our youth (our future) but also taking both proactive and reactive actions to help keep them both physically and just as important mentally safe and sound. Also to realize any effort that is successful in saving or improving the life of just one fellow human being is worth the effort.