04/25/13 8:00am
04/25/2013 8:00 AM

North Fork high school students are not only consuming more alcohol than most teenagers across the country, they’re also doing more binge drinking, a new survey has found.

The North Fork Alliance, a nonprofit community advocacy group in Greenport, conducted the area’s first comprehensive survey of teenage drug and alcohol abuse this fall. More than 1,270 students in grades 7 through 12 from the Mattituck-Cutchogue, Southold and Greenport school districts volunteered to take the survey. That’s a participation rate of 82.5 percent.

The Prevention Needs Assessment Survey was developed, and the results tallied, by Bach Harrison, a Salt Lake City company that provides survey, research and evaluation services. It was published earlier this month.

[Scroll below to read the entire 2012 North Fork Prevention Needs Assessment Survey]

Laura Jens-Smith, the alliance’s program coordinator and a members of the Mattituck-Cutchogue school board, told The Suffolk Times last week that she believes the most startling discovery was the amount of underage binge drinking that’s occurring.

[Related: Administrators, parents react to survey]

According to the report, 53.5 percent of high school seniors surveyed in September said they’d consumed alcohol within the past 30 days. When asked if they’d consumed five or more alcoholic beverages in a row within the past two weeks, 35.5 percent answered “yes.” The 2011 national average for binge drinking among 12th-graders is 21.6 percent, the report states.

“The most disturbing statistic is we are higher than the national average for alcohol use,” Ms. Jens-Smith said of the study’s findings. “There’s a lot of binge drinking that’s going on.”

In addition to alcohol use, the survey asked students if they’d gotten behind the wheel after consuming alcohol within the 30-day time frame.

About 3 percent admitted to drinking and driving and nearly 18 percent said they’d been in a car with a drunk driver. Those stats are below the national average, which shows 9.4 percent of teens around the country admitting to drunk driving and 26.7 percent stating they’ve been in a car with a drunk driver.

As for drug and tobacco use within the 30-day time period, 14.9 percent of North Fork students surveyed admitted to using marijuana, 9.2 percent said they smoked cigarettes, 2.3 percent took sedatives, 0.6 percent used cocaine and 0.3 percent used heroin.

The survey’s findings highlighted the importance of early intervention and addressing risk factors. It also found a link indicating that parent or peer disapproval tends to reduce underage usage.

Ms. Jens-Smith said she believed the major causes of teen alcohol and drug use are a lack of activities for teenagers in the area and poor public transportation. Another factor is peer pressure.

“Kids need to be aware that there’s a lot of kids out there who aren’t drinking and that it’s socially acceptable to not drink,” she said. “That has to come from everybody in the community: the schools, parents, police and businesses.”

Over the past few months, the North Fork Alliance has created several initiatives to combat teen drug and alcohol abuse.

It recently launched an online network for parents called Safe Homes, which allows parents to unite by pledging “no use” of alcohol and drugs by minors in their home. Signing up with the network provides a platform for parents to communicate with each other about reported underage drug and alcohol abuse, Ms. Jens-Smith said.

“[Safe Homes] provides another set of eyes,” she said. “You’re basically saying to the other parents, ‘I know I can’t be everywhere and I’m letting you know it’s OK to give me a call if you saw my child drinking.’<\!q>”

Other projects include a media campaign through the alliance’s new Facebook page, NFA Teens, an “Above the Influence” student art contest, a prom and graduation safety talk and a medication take-back event this Saturday.

The North Fork Alliance also plans a second survey in two years to measure the impact of its efforts and aims to continue to raise awareness about the area’s current problem.

“It’s important for parents and everyone to be aware of these issues out here, from Mattituck all the way out to end of the island,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “As a community, we need to pay attention to it … We want people to contact us and get involved.”

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Mattituck-Cutchogue UFSD Profile Report

04/25/13 7:59am

FLICKR/ARVINDGROVER PHOTO

Some local educators and parents were shocked this week by new statistics showing rates of drug and alcohol abuse among local teens higher than the national average, and agreed that providing more activities for teens and encouraging dialogue among parents is crucial to reversing the trend.

The North Fork Alliance, a Greenport nonprofit, recently published the area’s first comprehensive survey on teenage drug and alcohol abuse, which yielded some startling results — especially about rates of alcohol consumption and binge drinking.

Southold Superintendent David Gamberg said Wednesday that he district’s social worker plans to give students an overview of the survey.

[Related: North Fork teens drinking more than others, study says]

“There’s definitely a concern that the numbers are elevated compared to the national average,” Mr. Gamberg said. “We have work to do to make sure our students make good choices.”

One way the district tries to discourage drinking is by breaking out a Breathalyzer, which Mr. Gamberg said the district has had for years, during school events if there’s a suspicion of intoxication.

“At school functions, we make students aware we might check,” he said.

Alliance officials believe a major cause of teen alcohol and drug use a lack of things for young people to do.

Southold PTA president Angela Tondo agreed that keeping students busy with positive projects is a good way to deter self-destructive behavior.

“We have two movie theaters and only one is open in winter,” she said. “That’s about it.”

Ms. Tondo said more intervention at the middle school level would also be beneficial, such as expanding the DARE program. She added that she understands budget constraints may affect the feasibility of such a move and believes the most crucial factor in discouraging drug and alcohol abuse is parents talking to children about the consequences.

“I think a lot of children say, ‘My mother never said not to’ and then they think it’s OK,” she said. “That’s step one. I think you have start in your home.”

Over the past few months, the alliance has created several initiatives to combat teen drug and alcohol abuse.

Greenport PTA president Laura Hoch said she supports the Alliance’s new online parents’ network, Safe Homes, and believes it will help generate North Fork-specific solutions.

“I grew up in a rural area and understand how it’s hard for teenagers to stay busy doing healthy things,” Ms. Hoch said. “The PTA is on board to distribute [the alliance’s] information and we will do whatever we can to increase awareness in the community.”

Mattituck Superintendent James McKenna and Greenport Superintendent Michael Comanda both said they hadn’t received the alliance’s report as of Wednesday morning.

When asked about the online parent network, Mr. Comanda said liked the idea because it will give parents a great opportunity to discuss their concerns.

As for other ways to combat teenage drug and alcohol abuse, Mr. Comanda said Greenport provides students with a number of activities, including sports, an expanded drama and musical program and community service projects.

Mr. Gamberg said that while portions of the survey paint a gloomy picture, it did include some positive numbers, such as the percentage of students not involved with drugs or alcohol.

“On the flip side, there are a large number of kids who aren’t experimenting or using substances,” he said. “Those kids are to be congratulated.”

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With Tim Kelly

01/16/13 6:00pm
01/16/2013 6:00 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The North Fork Alliance is hosting a parent workshop tonight at Greenport schools called “When the Party is at Your House.”

The North Fork Alliance is hosting an informational meeting for parents tonight at Greenport schools called “When the Party is at Your House.”

Pam Mizzi, Prevention Resource Center director, will discuss ways parents can navigate a teenage party scene and protect their children, their children’s friends, and their property.

The alliance will also discuss its Safe Home Network, which aims to help keep parents informed about substance use.

Tonight’s presentation starts at 7:00 p.m. in Room 312.

04/27/12 3:00pm
04/27/2012 3:00 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Local community members discussed teenage drug use Tuesday night during a meeting at Mattituck High School.

Last Friday, when three Mattituck High School students were arrested for marijuana possession, they weren’t the only North Forkers getting high.

April 20 — known within the drug culture as 420, which is also the time in the afternoon many marijuana users get high — is something of a national holiday for pot smokers, and Mattituck school officials were aware that some kids would probably come to school high, says Mattituck principal Shawn Petretti.

Those arrests, and the larger problem of heroin in the community, were on the minds of many who attended The North Fork Alliance’s town hall meeting on alcohol and drug use at Mattituck High School Tuesday night.

Mr. Petretti said he’s been to two funerals this year for Mattituck alumni in their late 20s who died of drug overdoses.
One of those students was Mike Maffetone, who died in February. His brother, Paul Maffetone, was in the audience Tuesday night.

“I graduated from Mattituck five years ago. I never heard the word heroin here,” Mr. Maffetone said, adding that he used to drink screwdrivers while he was in school and didn’t get caught, but he didn’t ever believe his brother would do drugs.

Mr. Maffetone said it’s very easy for kids to become addicted to heroin after they’ve been given painkillers for sports-related injuries.

“How many kids go through ACL surgery in high school and get addicted to painkillers?” he asked. “I had hernia surgery and the doctor gave me 90 oxycodone pills and two refills. It only takes 60 pills to get addicted. If you look at the cost of pills, and then a bag of heroin costs $5, a lot of people think their kids won’t stick needles in them, but they’re wrong.”

Kym Laube, executive director of HUGS (Human Understanding and Growth) in Westhampton and the forum’s keynote speaker, said that while there’s a great fear of heroin within the media, alcohol kills more kids at the high school level than all illegal drugs combined. Alcohol is the drug most frequently used by teenagers, followed by marijuana.

Mr. Petretti said two parents of Mattituck students contacted him over the weekend with more details about the marijuana use on school property last Friday, and the school has worked to encourage students to inform the district about drugs.

“At least 80 percent of the time, when we find out about drugs it’s based on students telling us something. There are ways to do that without being a rat,” he said. “You’re hearing about more drug issues in part because more kids are coming forward.”

One of those kids wasn’t afraid to tell the public what she’s seen.

“A lot of people smoked pot after school” on Friday, said 10th-grader Britney Longley, a member of the school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions, at the meeting. She said she was invited to five pot-related parties over the weekend but declined to attend.

Ms. Laube said statistics show that teens on the East End are drinking and using drugs at a higher rate than in Suffolk County, New York State and the nation.

“We’re in wine country culture, and there’s a little bit of the ‘drinking village with a fishing problem’ syndrome,” she said. “And then there’s the tourism industry. You have young people working in places where they’re exposed to alcohol at a higher rate. The North Fork has a lot of points of access for underage drinking.”

Ms. Laube said that parents today tend to minimize the dangers of alcohol and marijuana use in their homes.
“You never say it’s OK if Sally shoplifts as long as I’m with her,” she said. “You never say it’s OK if Johnny snorts coke at our dining room table.”

She said boys begin drinking at an average age of 11, while girls begin at age 13. Recent research has proven that human brains aren’t fully formed until age 25, she added, stating that the longer parents keep their kids from drinking, the less likely their children are to become alcoholics.

She urged parents to host adult social events in their homes without serving alcohol and to wait up for their teenagers and actively engage them in conversation when they come home to determine if they’ve been drinking.

“You always hear ‘look for them to be irritable and tired’ to tell if kids have been using drugs,” Ms. Laube said. “They’re teenagers! They’re going to be irritable and tired … The number one turnoff for them is when parents are waiting up for them.”

“They’re children. They need to be supervised,” said Mr. Petretti. “Get to know their friends. Talk to their parents before sleepovers … If you’re not comfortable with it, say no. They’re adolescents. They’re going to get mad at you no matter what you do. You might as well say no.”

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