The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Montour County

April 18, 2014

Drug battle begins with public education

DANVILLE – Rep. Kurt Masser, local police and school district leaders discussed Wednesday what community members can expect to learn at an upcoming drug awareness program.

“I wanted to have this event to emphasize the real need in all of our communities concerning drug addiction,” Masser said. He had approached Cheryl Latorre, superintendent of Danville, earlier this year about setting up such a program for her district.

“They took the ball and really ran with it. They have been great to work with,” Masser said.

The program, titled “Together We Can Save a Life,” will be held at 5 p.m. on April 24 at the Danville Middle School.

The event will start with a free spaghetti dinner before featuring speakers and presentations on drug use in the community and how parents can prevent it among their children.

“It’s in Elysburg, it’s in Danville, it’s everywhere,” Masser said.

“In doing this for 34 years, I’ve buried a lot of kids,” Latorre said. Many parents are simply unaware of what dangerous behaviors to watch out for and what substances kids are abusing, she said. Many parents, including herself, aren’t aware how common it is for children to buy over-the-counter medications at Wal-Mart and mix them together at home to create something to get high on, Latorre said.

Danville administration wants to learn what signs to watch out for just as much as parents, said Jeremy Winn, assistant principal of Danville Middle School.

“I think it’s going to be informative for all of us as well,” he said.

“We view this as an extension of the same message we’ve been sending home with our students,” said Charles Smargiassi, principal of Danville Middle School. Its OK for parents to go into and look through their children’s rooms if they’re worried about what they’re doing, Smargiassi said.

Data from school surveys states that some students in Liberty Valley Intermediate School have already tried cigarettes and some in Danville Middle School have already tried marijuana, Latorre said.

Parents have a stereotype in their mind of what a drug dealer and drug user looks like, Masser said, but people who are well off financially are just as likely to buy, use and sell drugs as people who aren’t.

“People with money have access” to drugs, said Bob Blee, chief of police for Mahoning Township.

Masser recounted his family’s own experience with drug abuse, which caused the death of his niece. The two kids who regularly did drugs with her were good friends of Masser’s son who were frequently over to visit. They were good children from good families “who made horrible, horrible decisions,” Masser said.

Prescription painkillers have also become a very frequent target of drug abuse, said Montour County coroner Scott Lynn. It’s not uncommon to have children raiding medicine cabinets at homes or relatives houses to find these drugs.

At the event on April 24, information will be distributed to parents on new names for drugs and what they look like. Providers for rehabilitation and counseling will also be present, Latorre said.

The event will not be affected by the teachers’ strike.

“This is too important to be put off,” Latorre said.

Email comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.

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