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Crisis situation

Julie Saetre | Sep 11, 2017
Winners of the Massapequa Schools anti-drug poster contest.

For the Kiwanis Club of Massapequa, New York, the opioid-addiction crisis hit close to home two years ago. A club member had a young family member struggling with the issue and asked fellow members to somehow address the growing epidemic. Robert Thompson, the club’s president at the time, jumped at the chance to spearhead what became the Massapequa Kiwanis Drug Initiative.

The eight-step program—now the club’s signature project—includes a comprehensive information booklet for parents/guardians, a related phone app and a crisis hotline staffed 24/7 by trained counselors.

Thompson made these anonymous, reach-out-from-anywhere resources a priority to access those adults too timid or ashamed to ask for help in person.

“There’s such a stigma, such a denial, almost, about this issue,” he says. “Not in society, really, but in individual families. Because people don’t want to say, ‘Oh, my daughter is having this issue.’ They don’t want anybody to know.”

The club found a detailed booklet called “A Parent’s Guide for the Prevention of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use,” created by the nonprofit Community of Concern, and printed copies. Working with Massapequa Public Schools, members attended key school functions to distribute the booklets to parents of students from elementary grades through high school.

The Partnership for Drug Free Kids, another nonprofit, had created a Drug Guide for Parents mobile-phone app with similar information, so the Kiwanians included a link on their newly revamped website. An electronic version of the Community of Concern booklet also is available there (massapequakiwanis.org/drug-initiative).

Thompson next wanted to include a link to an all-day, everyday drug-specific counseling hotline that would be staffed locally.

“I personally called 18 different hotlines that were supposedly 24/7,” he recalls. “None of them were.”

So the club worked with the Long Island Crisis Center to create one.

Other components of the initiative include a poster contest, a role model program, community education efforts and a speaker program.

Response was immediate and continues to grow, Thompson reports, with website use up and calls coming into the crisis line.

“I’ve gotten thank-you emails, and we’ve gotten some new members on board because of the initiative ... if we can just help any family, any one kid, that’s our goal.”

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