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Saladino Unveils Task Force on Substance Abuse

Professionals in Various Fields Asked to Contribute Ideas and Opinions

In recent years, the Massapequa area has presented a united front in the battle against substance abuse. Most prominent have been such popular organizations as Yes Counseling Center and Drug Free Massapequa (DFM). The arrest and conviction of a Merrick-based physician for selling prescription drugs to minors near Massapequa High School was the most dramatic example of the problem in the area.

Now, New York State Assemblyman Joseph S. Saladino has lent his support to the struggle. At a press conference last Wednesday at South Oaks Hospital, he announced the creation of the Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Relief Task Force.

The assemblyman said that the task force is designed to formulate ideas and review options and legislative amendments to aid parents with the struggle of protecting their children from dangerous drug abuse and potential overdose or death. Parental and children rights, the assemblyman added, are cornerstones to the initiative. So, too, are protecting the privacy of those involved. In all, the assemblyman said that the task force is a means of vetting the ideas of professionals to develop solutions to the problem.

“If a parent learns of their child’s addiction before the child turns 18, they have a legal right to get them into a rehab facility. This only applies while the child is still a minor,” said Assemblyman Saladino. “Once your child reaches the age of 18, you the parent, no longer has any control over the situation; even if the child resides in your home or is in college. This has created a very dangerous situation for caring parents who have turned to me for help.

“I would never infringe upon the rights of Americans,” he continued. “I believe that this panel made up of professionals in the field of rehabilitation and counseling, law enforcement, prosecutors and parents, who have lived this horror, will help me create changes to the law that are appropriate, welcomed by all and will work effectively to find solutions. In the meanwhile, it is so important that parents begin discussions relating to the dangers of experimental use of heroin and prescription drugs with their children. This must happen before they go off to college or begin the high school year. It is my hope that the media attention this new task force receives will lead to every parent having this conversation with their children immediately.”

Joining Assemblyman Saladino as he unveiled the task force were Janice Talento, president of Drug Free Massapequa, plus Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of Long Island Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (LICADD); Dr. Kristie Golden, vice president of Ambulatory Services of South Oaks Hospital; Dr. Efthimia Leonardi, president of Lucida Medical Communications; Teresa Corrigan, chief of the Nassau County Narcotic and Gang Bureau, representing Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice; and Nassau County Police Detective Pamela Stark, expert in drug investigation and community affairs, representing Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas P. Krumpter.

On a more melancholy note, Sharon Sieczkowski, Bob LaGrega, and Teri Kroll, parents who lost children to drug addictions, also attended. Ms. Sieczkowski, who spoke at the press conference, is a resident of Massapequa.

 “Jonny was a wonderful, loving son. After one joyful year in recovery he suffered the consequences of his addiction to heroin with a fatal overdose. My son was just 22 years old,” she said. “Maybe if we had realized he had developed this problem early on we could have saved him. We are joining Assemblyman Saladino’s efforts to try to help find a solution so other parents don’t have to suffer the same kind of loss.”

Also at the press conference, rehabilitation professionals, drug abuse prevention experts and law enforcement agents all lent their support to the task force, calling it a “powerful opportunity” to develop a comprehensive plan in the fight against substance abuse.

Membership in the task force, plus recommendations and possible legislation will all come into a clearer focus when the State Assembly reconvenes this fall.

In the meantime, Assemblyman Saladino said that he would continue speaking with parents, community groups and educators to “devise a specific agenda for the work of the task force.” He encourages families seeking help relating to drug abuse concerns to contact LICADD at 747-2606 or visit their website