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A timely invitation: Drugs and alcohol a community issue

Opinion / Letters by: Linda Oristano, January 19, 2023

Editor’s note: Earlier this week, Linda Oristano, project coordinator of the Northport/East Northport Drug and Alcohol Task Force (NENDATF), submitted the following piece for publication in the “Voices” section of the Journal. The following day, according to sources within Northport High School, four students showing signs of being under the influence of drugs were sent to the hospital via ambulance for evaluation, protocol for the district. Sources familiar with the incident said the students ingested gummies laced with THC, though district officials would not confirm or deny details, citing student confidentiality issues.

In response to a request for comment, the district emailed the Journal the following statement:

“We take all matters related to drug and alcohol use by students extremely seriously. Providing students with the necessary support and resources to make healthy choices continues to be a priority of the district. Any parent who has concerns about their children or who may be in need of resources should reach out to their school principal or counselor. We recognize that drug and alcohol use among adolescents continues to be a concern for school districts across Long Island. To help combat these issues, the district works in partnership with the Community Drug & Alcohol Task Force as well as our dedicated drug and alcohol counselor. Our hope is that through family and school support, knowledge and oversight, our students will make healthy decisions now and into the future.”

The NENDATF’s Linda Oristano confirmed with the Journal that the high school’s principal, Robert Dennis, attended yesterday evening’s regularly scheduled task force meeting, and that plans are being made to address student drug and alcohol use, together. “I think it’s really important that we act and not just react,” she told the Journal, adding that the NENDATF, which operates independently from the district, is currently working on a collaboration with the district that would allow the task force to be more involved in the schools. Oristano’s article, as originally submitted, is below.

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When I moved to Northport over 18 years ago, I was amazed at the amount of energy that radiated from our community. The number of activities, restaurants, events, charitable organizations to give back to, religious worship places, shopping, and I can go on and on. I said to my husband, “That’s it, I don’t want to live anywhere else!” What a great place, what a great community. I have been blessed to participate in so much right from the start.

Strong communities are the backbone of society. They provide stability, which is so important for someone to have in order to survive. It is important for the well-being of children and families who are extremely impacted when they have an encouraging, stable, inclusive and strong community. Covid-19 actually highlighted the power of community. The coming together and support that was available soared.

Preventing and minimizing the harms caused by alcohol and other drugs is a community issue. Evidence shares with us that when we engage a community in the design and implementation of prevention programs, the community has the potential to improve not only the individual but the health and well-being of the community. Developing and having a whole-community approach means that there is collaboration and strong communication between local stakeholders to understand the alcohol and other drug issues not only of our youth, but of all. This will ensure that the community can implement evidence-based informed activities.

Capacity is important in the success of any program, especially prevention programs. Communities who understand these local needs utilize the data based on local risk factors and implement evidence-based prevention practices.

The Northport/East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force strives to ensure communities have the prevention and education needed to make a difference in the community. Our mission is to prevent and reduce the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol among our youth by using a comprehensive approach to engage and educate children, parents, and community members.

That is why on Thursday, February 2 at 7pm at the American Legion Hall in Northport, we will be hosting our first Meet and Greet networking event. The purpose of this event is to bring together all of the sectors in our community to share the resources that are available to all of us. As our world becomes more complex, it’s never been more critical for organizations to work across sectors to achieve their goals, especially for the health and well-being of the community.

The event is open to all community members. If you are interested in attending, you can email us at nendatf.org. We look forward to seeing you there.