To Combat Drug Abuse

School officials plan English and Spanish forums
Christine Sampson

A spike in drug-related incidents at East Hampton High School this year has spurred officials to organize two forums on the dangers of drugs and addiction — a Spanish-language presentation at 7 p.m. next Thursday and an English presentation on March 23 at 6 p.m. The forums are intended for the community at large. Parents, students, families, and educators in surrounding school districts have also been invited.

Adam Fine, the high school principal, Robert Tymann, an assistant superintendent, Kenny Alversa, the school resource officer, and Teresita Winter, a bilingual social worker, are coordinating the program.

“We’re seeing an uptick in drug-type incidents at the high school, and we think, and I truly believe, it’s a community issue that needs to be addressed,” Mr. Fine said this week. “We need to bring everybody together.”

Representaives of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, the East Hampton Town Police Department, Suffolk County Emergency Medical Services, and other entities will take part. Training will be offered in the use of Narcan, an anti-opiate overdose treatment, and kits will be given to those who participate.

Mr. Tymann said the district was not sure what was causing the increase. It could be an actual jump in numbers or, he said, the result of heightened awareness on the part of parents who may be more comfortable sharing information with the school district than in the past.

“People are giving us tons of information we have to address, which never happened before at this level,” Mr. Fine said. He would not provide a number on how many incidents had occurred so far this year, but said it surpassed last year’s total.

According to data sent annually by the school district to New York State, East Hampton reported nine drug-related and two alcohol-related incidents last year, four drug-related and six alcohol-related occurrences in the 2013-14 school year, and seven drug-related and four alcohol-related the previous year.

Ms. Winter explained that a committee of parents whose primary language is Spanish recently urged the school to plan such an event. “They wanted to know what can we do, how can we prevent it, what are the red flags? They said, ‘You provide all this information to the students, but some of the things are happening in the home, and we need to be more aware of it.’”

 

Three years ago, the district began bringing in police dogs to sniff out drugs at the high school. This is occurring multiple times a year and is not announced. Mr. Fine said the practice had helped discourage drug use at the school. He added that the problem spans all ethnicities among the student body and one extends past adolescence.

Mr. Alversa agreed. “There is no way that one organization or entity can combat this. It has to be a community issue, a school issue, a police department issue, a county issue, because it’s not just isolated to East Hampton,” he said. “It’s a nationwide epidemic that has to be taken on from many fronts to have any effect on it. We’re all committed to bringing in whatever resources are necessary to start that fight.”