MTAC Looks to be the Solution to the Growing Drug Misuse Issue

Liam Higgins and Peter Toutoulis

With overdoses and drug misuse at an all time high in Nassau County, the Massapequa Takes Action Coalition (MTAC) has stepped up to educate and prevent drug misuse in our local community.
The MTAC seeks to focus their efforts on combating prescription opioids, as misuse of these synthetic painkillers often leads to abuse of other drugs such as heroin.
The coalition especially wants to raise awareness about keeping medications away from those who are not meant to take them.
The MTAC conducts an annual anonymous survey of high school students in order to obtain accurate data about how many students use drugs and how often they do so. With this data, the MTAC can focus its efforts on promoting awareness throughout the community.
In particular, the group places a strong focus on eighteen- to twenty-five-year-olds, as this is the most likely demographic to get involved with prescription drugs and heroin.
“Overdoses are the leading cause of death in Nassau County for ages eighteen to thirty-five,” Coalition coordinator Cathy Samuels said.
This staggering reality is exactly what the MTAC looks to mitigate in the near future. The Coalition hopes to do this by coordinating activities with several Massapequa High School clubs.
“We are out there working with kids.” Mrs. Samuels said, “We are working with Chiefs Challenge and active minds right now.” Mrs. Samuels and the MTAC wish to expand their connections with high school students by working with the SADD club in the near future.
Interactions with high school students, the MTAC believes, is crucial since many young adults start misusing drugs during high school. They hope that by establishing contacts with high school students and clubs now will lead to a decrease in drug misuse in the near future.
“We felt like we needed to do more to bring the broader community in to address this issue,” MTACC co-chairman Mark Wenzel said.
Some of these clubs have begun placing posters around MHS that encourage parents to keep their medications in a location that only they know. The goal is to educate and try to prevent drug misuse before it starts among children.
Mrs. Samuels feels that parents have the responsibility to prevent drug misuse by speaking with their kids and locking their medications away.
¨The mission is about kids and making healthy decisions. We encourage parents to talk with their kids,¨ Mrs. Samuels said.
Creating an environment where this type of conversation can lead to more transparency between parents and children about drug misuse is a goal of the MTAC. Hopefully these conversations will prevent the issue before it starts.
With their efforts, the MTAC is hoping that parents will be more aware of where they store their prescription pills so that it is much more difficult for kids to take them.
“Of drug misusers from the ages of eighteen and twenty five, 71% get them from the medicine cabinets of family and friends,” Mrs. Samuels said.
While the MTAC’s main concern is drug misuse, not drug abuse, the coalition looks to branch out to combat the issue of drug abuse, specifically that of alcohol and marijuana among teenagers.
According to the MTAC website, the group’s goal is “to help young people and their families find better ways to manage their emotional pain and minimize their stress without using or abusing drugs and alcohol.”
One of the organization’s “stakeholders,” or partners, is YES Community Counseling, a center that provides psychological services to individuals struggling with drug addiction.
Given the stress that comes along with schooling and everyday life, the MTAC looks to be the group to create a healthier and drug-free community.
The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NYS OASAS) has awarded funds to the MTAC through its Partnership for Success Grant.
“This particular grant is specific to heroin and prescription drugs and the primary message is to secure your drugs, monitor them, and dispose of them properly,” Mr. Wenzel said.
The MTAC will also use this grant to advance its mission to educate the community on the damaging effects of drugs and alcohol and to help healthcare providers determine whether to prescribe opioids and how large the doses of opioids should be.
The group also has produced pamphlets with questions that a patient should ask his/her doctor when being prescribed painkillers to make sure that the patient is taking the medicine correctly and only for the amount of time that is necessary.
The MTAC has started distributing these pamphlets, including at Ames during a meeting for parents of the incoming freshman class.
Through participation by parents and students, the MTAC looks to expand even further to combat the numerous drug related issues that plague Nassau County, and more specifically Massapequa.

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