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RBR Panel Addresses Area's Heroin Epidemic

The forum was a follow-up to a November presentation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

Recovering addict and Monmouth University graduate student Dave Dolan tells his story to members of the local community. Credit: RFH
Recovering addict and Monmouth University graduate student Dave Dolan tells his story to members of the local community. Credit: RFH

Press release issued by Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School

Red Bank -- "Time to Talk ... Time to Act," a forum for adults concerned about the area's heroin epidemic, was held on the evening of February 20 at Red Bank Regional High School.

Featuring a panel comprised of experts and those impacted by addiction, the event was a follow-up to the presentation this past November by Monmouth County Acting Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni.

While "A Time to Talk" delivered a look at the growing local presence of heroin and other addictive drugs, "Time to Talk .. Time to Act" answered the question "What can be done right now to save our children?"

"If you think you are seeing signs of drug use, you probably are," said Barbara Cashin, Marketing Liaison at High Focus Center in Freehold.  "Make sure that you educate yourself, and don't be afraid to search your kid's room or contact your family doctor, a therapist, or your high school's Student Assistance Counselor for help."

A recovery counselor with 34 years' experience, Cashin urged parents to be attentive as well to signs of depression in teens, as this has been proven to make them more vulnerable to the lure of drugs.

Dave Dolan, a recovering addict who is now a graduate student at Monmouth University, agreed with the medical professionals who described drug addiction as a chronic, relapse-prone illness just as diabetes and hypertension are.

"I feel like I was born to be an addict," he said, noting that his recovery did not get on track until he was "finally ready to pick up the tools that people were putting at my feet."

"My recovery has brought me so much closer to my family and community, and has given me a sense of meaning and purpose in my life," Dolan said. "I am here to tell you that there is so much hope if your child is an addict or in recovery."

Cashin, who was once Dolan's recovery counselor, agreed. "I had not seen Dave in years, and the poised young man who is addressing you tonight is not the young man that I knew," she said.

Also echoing the sentiment of hope was Lauren Tripodi, a heroin addict now in long-term recovery.

She started out using pot and ended up craving and abusing stronger drugs, and called her mom for help when she knew that she had hit rock bottom.

"She basically took me away and watched in a hotel room as I detoxed," said Tripodi, who is now a student at Monmouth University.

"I now have a really beautiful life filled with lots of beautiful people," she said. "Support from the family and community really does make a difference."

"I wish that I had seen the signs," said Meg Parisi, another panel member. "We found little plastic bags and small pieces of aspirin but had no idea that it was related to our son Patrick's use of Oxycontin."

Patrick passed away two years ago from an overdose on his college campus, surrounded by friends, at the age of 21.

"This can happen in any family, to anyone," noted Meg, who said that Patrick had intensive hip surgery as a child and was in a body cast for five days while a morphine drip was administered.

"I had no idea that this exposure had the potential to plant the seeds for addiction, and that it would rear its ugly head so many years later," she said.

"My message to you tonight is 'over-react, absolutely'," said Jim Romer, Clinical Director of Psychiatric Emergency Screening Services at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch. 

"The kids in our program are alive right now because someone -- a parent, a coach, a teacher -- thought that something was amiss and made that phone call," he said. "When you smell smoke, you need to call the Fire Department."

"Time to Talk ... Time to Act" was organized and planned by the Rumson-Fair Haven Community Alliance and the Shrewsbury Community Alliance along with Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank Regional High School, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, and the school districts of Fair Haven, Little Silver, Red Bank, Rumson, and Shrewsbury.

Student Assistance Counselors for the three high schools -- Kathleen Booth of RBC, Suzanne Fico of RFH, and Lori Todd of RBR -- were present at the forum and were instrumental in its planning.

In addition to the Student Assistance Counselors, resources for area parents include High Focus Center/1-800-877-3628, Meridian Behavioral Health Care Services/1-800-822-8905, Monmouth Medical Center Pollack Clinic/732-923-6500, New Hope Foundation/1-800-705-4673 and the NJ Drug Hotline/1-800-225-0196.

Also appearing as speakers were: Virginia Carreira, Nurse Practitioner at Long Branch Regional High School; Dr. George Sollami, retired physician and member of the Rumson-Fair Haven Community Alliance; Donna DeStefano, Coordinator of the Rumson-Fair Haven Community Alliance; West Long Branch Police Chief Laurence Mihlon and his wife Sue Mihlon; and Dave Roden,Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of New Hope Foundation in Marlboro.

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