Parent wanted more emphasis on addiction as disease
By Lily Gordon
Sparked by public comment, the Garrison school board at its April 18 workshop discussed a forum it held on addiction three weeks earlier.
Melanie Matero of Philipstown, whose youngest son died of an overdose in 2014, said the panel failed to address what she believes is the most crucial part of combating addition: identifying it as a disease.
“The roundtable was a painful reminder that stigma, fear and misunderstanding still thrive within our community,” she said.
The six-member panel included representatives from two religious organizations, the Putnam County commissioner of mental health, the Garrison School guidance counselor, Putnam County District Attorney Robert Tendy and Sheriff Don Smith.
“The true crime is that we as a society are continuing to allow and even expect law enforcement to treat a medical issue,” Matero argued. “Perhaps most upsetting was the realization that not once was the word disease mentioned.”
She said that education is the most important tool, not law enforcement, and that the panel may have given the impression to audience members who are battling addiction “that they are bad, they are criminals, and the jury is still out as to whether they are worthy of life-saving medication” such as the opiate antidote Narcan, said Matero.
“When people with power make offhanded comments like D.A. Tendy stating that thankfully he didn’t have to worry about what was on his kids’ phones because he had good kids, it reveals the gaping divide between what is talked about and the actual perceptions.”
Board member David Gelber agreed that the panel “left a lot to be desired,” and asked about ways the community can help. Matero again emphasized the importance of education and also cited an example of local business owners hiring teens. In answering another question from Gelber, she said she believed opioids are “absolutely” being overprescribed by local doctors.
In other business …
- The Garrison Children’s Educational Fund raised more than $29,000 at its Spring Thaw fundraiser on March 25. GCEF also raised $3,000 for audio-visual improvements at the school.
- The Philipstown Garden Club is donating a 14-foot Princeton Elm to the Garrison School. It will be planted with help from students.
- The board approved a proposition for the May 16 ballot to create a capital reserve fund with the same purpose as the current one: to finance the construction, improvement and reconstruction of district buildings. The fund balance would be transferred to the new account. The current account expires on June 30; the new fund would expire in 10 years.