Mattituck drug forum springs from memory of late teen

It’s been a year and a half since Mattituck lost 15-year-old Gabriel Phillippe, who died after a battle with drug addiction in April 2010.

Gabe’s family is partnering next Tuesday night with Mattituck High School for a program to help raise community awareness of the dangers of drug addiction.

At 7 p.m. in the high school library, Gabe’s father, Bryan Phillippe, will share the story of his son’s life, and Father Francis Pizzarelli of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson will discuss drug and alcohol awareness with parents.

Father Pizzarelli will also hold an assembly with students during the school day. He founded Hope House Ministries in 1980 to help teenagers who are dealing with drug, alcohol and family issues and are in danger of committing suicide.

The ministry operates several homes for young people in crisis, where volunteers and staff teach youth the skills of self-discipline, critical thinking, problem solving and personal responsibility.

“Never in a million years would I have ever believed that we would have lost Gabe at the age of 15 to a drug addiction,” said Gabe’s aunt, Trisha Poole, who helped to organize the event with Mattituck school board member Laura Jens-Smith, in an email to the community this week. “My family cannot change the past and the pain we have endured, and continue to endure, every day because of his loss. However, I hope that maybe I can help make a difference for you, your family, your kids, your friends, or your neighbor and thereby help save a life.

“I believe an addiction is a disease that can destroy the life of its victim and in most cases tear a family apart,” she added. “It is so difficult for all involved to realize and acknowledge what is really happening and then to know what to do. I wish my family and I knew how lethal street drugs and medication drugs were and how available they are within our communities.”

Ms. Poole said several community groups that offer support for adolescents dealing with dependency issues will also be available at the session.

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