Pictured left to right: Assemblyman David McDonough; Rene Fiechter, Chairman of the Nassau Coalition of Heroin Abuse and Assistant District Attorney; Jamie Bogenshutz, Executive Director, YES Community Counseling Center; Sharon Sieczkowski, mother of Johnny Sieczkowski; Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, Executive Director of LICADD; Assemblyman Saladino; Detective Pamela Stark (NCPD); Teri Kroll, mother of Timothy Kroll; Janice Talento, President of Drug Free Massapequa; Dr. Kristie Golden, South Oaks V.P. of Ambulatory and Community Services; Town of Oyster Bay (T.O.B.) Councilman Joe Pinto; and Assemblyman Ed Ra.
“A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to associate most Long Island communities with prescription drug and heroin abuse,” said Assemblyman Saladino. “Unfortunately, this is reality and these cases exist. We are attempting to provide parents, the community and medical professionals, information and tools to identify the problem, take precautions and know where to get help. Taking the time to inform your children of these dangers is an important way to show your love for them this holiday season.”
The purpose of this program is to highlight information, let individuals know where they can seek help for themselves, or for their loved ones, and to let the public know that they can receive copies of this Tool Kit and Resource Guide from Assemblyman Saladino’s district office. The Parental Tool Kit and Resource Guide can also be downloaded on Assemblyman Saladino’s web site at http://www.assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Joseph-S-Saladino.
The guide also includes a medicine cabinet drug tracker, which can be affixed to the inside of a medicine cabinet door and used as a registry for parents to keep track of how many pills are in the vials of potentially dangerous prescription drugs in their medicine cabinet.
Also at the press conference was Assemblyman David McDonough (R,C,I-Merrick) who praised Assemblyman Saladino’s work, and said that he will be distributing this guide to the constituents and pharmacies in the 19th Assembly District.
“This is an important step in protecting our kids and our communities,” said McDonough. “I thank Joseph Saladino, and I hope that we can make this effort statewide.”
Assemblyman Ed Ra (21st Assembly District) echoed his sentiment, saying that he will join in efforts to pass legislation in Albany, which effectively finds solutions to the dangers of drug abuse.
T.O.B. Councilman Joe Pinto spoke to the efforts that Supervisor John Venditto and the Town of Oyster Bay have made in protecting children. “Our children are our most precious gifts, and we must do everything possible to protect them,” said Pinto. “We need to provide them with the resources to seek help when necessary when dealing with issues of substance abuse, and I join with my colleagues in government in asking parents to warn their children to stay away from these dangers.”
Assemblyman Saladino is the chairman of this newly-created Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Relief Task Force, which consists of experts in the fields of substance abuse, addiction, rehabilitation, counseling, law enforcement and local community organizational leaders. It is also comprised of parents with the courage to share the stories of their children whose lives were lost due to the scourge of heroin and prescription drug overdose.
Sharon Sieczkowski and Teri Kroll, who flanked Assemblyman Saladino during the press conference, became emotional when speaking about just how important it is to have these conversations with your children. They also supported all the efforts of the task force, and bring very personal and devastating experiences in order to demonstrate how real this issue is and how it could happen to any family.
Jamie Bogenshutz of the YES Community Counseling Center has been working with area residents for decades. She and the staff of YES are not newcomers to this issue. She too stressed that holiday time is an opportunity to sit children down for this discussion while they are home from school and focused on family time.
“This parental Tool Kit and Resource Guide is available for doctor’s offices, dentist offices, and pharmacies so that patients and customers may utilize the information, bring home the prescription tracker and to take advantage of this initiative,” said Assemblyman Saladino.
He also discussed legislation that he and his colleagues, along with the task force, are pushing to see passed into law. One of the highest priorities is to create a real-time database for prescribers and pharmacists. In this way, these professionals are armed with the necessary information to recognize abusers, “doctor shoppers,” and addicts who would otherwise get their hands on quantities of highly addictive drugs, such as oxycodone and oxycontin, to name but a few. They also are seeking methods to more formerly educate these professionals in identifying the signs of addiction, and training pharmacists on how to protect the safety of their employees and customers.
The experts of this task force stressed that the most important step is to convey to children of all ages the grave dangers associated with drug addiction and overdose.
“The holidays should be a very happy time, but unfortunately, for some families it is not due to their great loss,” said Assemblyman Saladino. “We remind parents to show their love for their children by stressing how easily addiction can take hold of a life and perhaps take it away forever. At holiday time, let us remember just how much we love our families.”