Next week’s meeting will give residents the opportunity to hear from local leaders and experts about the fight against drug abuse. The panel will consist of Long Beach Schools Superintendent David Weiss, who will explain the school district’s anti-drug efforts; Eden Laikin, chair of the Nassau County Health Department’s Heroin Prevention Task Force, who will talk about resources available to those battling addiction; Dr. Monica Pal, a counselor at Long Beach Reach, who will discuss how people get addicted and how counseling works; Tangney, who will explain the role law enforcement plays in keeping drugs out of Long Beach; and Judi Vining, coordinator of the Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking, who will talk about the warning signs of drug use and things parents can do to protect their children.
“Alcohol is a gateway drug, and the number one drug of choice for teens,” Vining said. “By the time someone in their 20s or 30s ends up with an addiction to prescription drugs or heroine, you can be sure that they started drinking in their early teens. The longer you can keep someone from altering their mental status with any substance, the better chance you have of keeping them away from a lifetime of disease.”
Vining added that the coalition focuses much of its efforts on changing the way society views drinking and drug use. Its aim is to make community members aware of the (sometimes subtle) messages about alcohol and drug use to which children are exposed. While societal change is the coalition’s ideal, big-picture goal, Vining acknowledged that it is a method that takes patience and may not yield immediate results. Implementing laws that make it more difficult for young people to get drugs, she added, is a more immediate method that helps prevent addiction.
“I think there is a lot of sincere effort and a lot of resources available,” Vining said. “And I think one of the things we’ve been lacking is publicizing those resources. Where people can go to get help, what help is available, who can they talk to.”