Selectmen: Time to Revisit Drug Control Efforts

Board, town manager cite recent deaths as call to action.

Reading’s board of selectmen Tuesday said that now may be the time for the town to revisit its efforts to address substance abuse in the community.

“A few years ago [we] began to undertake efforts to combat the scourge of substance abuse,” said Selectman Ben Tafoya. “This might be a time when we need to reinvigorate [them].”

Tafoya’s comments follow a span during which two Reading residents were gunned down in eight days as the result of disputes that investigators believe may have been drug related.

On Monday, Aug. 15, a gunman, , 25, of Revere, , 22, in his 3 Lawrence Road home. On Monday, Aug. 22 an as-yet unidentified gunman , 33, of Reading while he was in a car in Lawrence.

“Tragedy happens all the time,” said Chairwoman Camille Anthony. “We seem to have just been really hitting a lot of it.”

The town previously responded to the issue of drug use in the community by securing a 2007 grant to found the . The coalition describes its mission as “to promote a healthy community environment [and] to address our problem that a significant number of youth in Reading, MA use alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.”

Members of the board of selectmen said Tuesday that RCASA enjoyed energetic participation in its first years, but has since seen attendance at meetings trail off. Some meetings, said Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner, have drawn fewer than ten audience members.

“What that says to me is that the community doesn’t believe it has a problem,” Hechenbleikner said. “They can’t still think that.”

The coalition’s next annual meeting, Hechenbleikner said, will be held on Sept. 29, and he expects the town’s recent losses to shape the agenda.

“We hope people come out,” he said.

Concerned August 25, 2011 at 02:35 AM
I am a life long resident of Reading and have seen many people from this town die from drug overdoses or go to jail for drug related crimes. I bought a house in this town because of the terrific school system and Reading's strong community values. I now have my own kids in the school system and I am extremely concerned about the town's drug problem. All of the points listed in these comments are true...it needs to be a community effort that includes education in the schools and at home, rigorous parenting, substance abuse programs and a strong stance by town government and police. The police know who the suspects are and while these suspects are in our town they should make their lives a living hell. Stake them out, follow them, pull them over, arrest them for small crimes, interrogate them and let them know that they are not going to get away with this in our community. If these suspects are harassed enough, they will move out of our town and bring their drugs with them. Police and town government also cannot give people a free pass because they are an old friend or a town employee. I heard for years the biggest drug dealer in town was a DPW worker. It wasn't until State Police and the US Postal Police stepped in this past winter that he was arrested. Education, rehabilitation programs, and strong parenting are crucial, but we also need to put a zero tolerance policy in place now before the younger generation follows and it is too late.
George August 25, 2011 at 11:37 AM
"Concerned" has hit the nail on the head. Well said! The constant attention to these known suspects has been a missing component in this war. The "friend", "employee", or town resident approach has to stop so the pushers and users know that whovever the are they will not be able to get away with damaging Reading.
Gregory August 25, 2011 at 01:45 PM
you know ive been saying this for over ten years so many of my friends have died before they reached 21 and none of it was on the news or in the paper reading has covered it up swept it under the door mat for so long and now people have had enough? do u have any idea how many kids from reading have oded are in jail or have lost there souls to drugs in reading dont forget about them
RT August 25, 2011 at 03:38 PM
In reading some of these comments, it appears that some people expect Camille Anthony, Peter Hechenbleikner, Chief Cormier, et al to raise their kids for them....personally, I would debate the merits of such a strategy.
Hammertime August 25, 2011 at 03:47 PM
" fish rots from the head down" Dont expect them to do my job as a parent or to raise anyones kids. But they should not put themselves out there heading up RCASA when they have no idea what they are up against and literally have no clue not one of them except the chief who is silent. Then when something does happen no one says anything. Typical of our town just sweep it under the rug and pretned it does not happen.
Nikki August 25, 2011 at 04:01 PM
What you're saying, Hammertime, I believe is the bottom line; it has to start at home at a very young age or all these DARE-type programs are a waste of time. Parents are not meant to be their children's FRIEND! Actually, kids should FEAR (for lack of a better word) their parents until it's apparent the parents' teachings have sunk in. I've seen too many households where the kids rule the roost.
AnonLikeU August 25, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Ryan, I disagree. I don't read any of these comments in the way you suggest. What is being suggested is that our town leaders actually take the lead on this important town issue. Bring the interested and relevant parties into the same room, communicate to the general public, make their work more transparent. I went to the RCASA website and the last newsletter and statistical data were from May and June 2010. That's not acceptable. Our tax dollars are funding this coalition. The community at large should be more involved in attending RCASA meetings, and insisting on input and transparency about everything they do.
Pete August 25, 2011 at 07:42 PM
OK - I get it now. 1. As a parent, I need to set an example and pay attention to what my kids are into and what their friends are into. 2. Town Management needs to monitor the problem and allocate resourses to combat it. 3. The police need to identify the bad guys and enforse the law. 4. The schools need to educate. Sounds like a plan. Let's do it.
Charles August 25, 2011 at 07:49 PM
I don't think people want town officials to raise our kids. However, I don't want town officials to worry about politics instead of our children. Be aggressive. If drugs are "all through the HS" then send in police dogs or go through the lockers. It is town property. Town officials are to afraid of "public perception" for being this aggressive. Ask yourself what is our "public perception" of Reading when in the past 7 years we have had over 9 kids (under 25 yrs old) die from drugs. Tell me of another town (not city) that has the same statistics????
AnonLikeU August 25, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Yes, if only it were so simple as those four steps! :) Everyone save the date of October 6th, 7pm, RMHS PAC for the next RCASA meeting. The director tells me there will also be a community event sometime in September. At a minimum, I would hope that everyone who has commented on this issue over the past two weeks would make it a priority to participate. I also plan to bring my 16 year old. Let's make it real clear to our kids that we care, we are concerned, and we are on the move. Keep the chatter and the momentum going!
Mathew Jutras August 25, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Plain and simple…..this town is spening money on useless renovations around town that could be goin towards a recreation center or something like that, not including the YMCA which costs money which a lot of people cant afford. Cops sit around all the time "waiting" for speeders instead of wandering the streets looking for things like this.
peter lucci August 25, 2011 at 08:08 PM
Just as many of us are/were unaware of the #s of OD deaths in Reading over the past 7 years, I'm sure that you or anybody else is unaware of other town's OD death stats. Yes Reading has a drug problem, just like every other town in the area and beyond. BTW, 9 is an overstatement.
Dave Miskinis August 25, 2011 at 10:26 PM
I imagine that if any one of us were a fly on the wall at Police headquarters, listening to drug/burglary/sexual predator prevention & monitoring meetings, we would be amazed at what they know and what they do to combat these problems. Imagine the magnitude of the crimes they are preventing. People who make, sell and use drugs are going to get into trouble or destroy their lives or end up dead. Stop faulting the selectemen, the A.D., the D.A.R.E. program, teachers or "town improvements." It is absolutely absurd to think that a new rec center is going to make these problems go away. Talk to your kids and spend time with them, no matter what their age. Don't accept a shrug of the shoulders or one word answers to your questions. Know who they spend time with and know their parents as well. Talk to their teachers (do you think that the users/dealers are good, engaged students????). Why are we not demanding that the A.D., the police, the selectman and the teachers solve drunk driving deaths or teenage pregancy, suicides or anything else for that matter? People....good PARENTING will prevent a lot of these issues. Take responsibility for crying out loud.
Cheryl Buono August 26, 2011 at 01:05 AM
Wait 7 weeks for a meeting? Where's the sense of urgency? Hold a real zero tolerance meeting the first day of school. Parents can take action right now. Check your kid's cell phones to see who/what they are texting (before they start deleting them). Get access to their Facebook accounts and check their friends and friends of friends. Quickly you'll find out what happening in town. Where the drinking parties are? Who's supplying the alcohol. Who the druggies are. Who's planning vandalism in retaliation. Who's bullying who etc. Be a parent, not their friend. What do you expect to be different at this meeting? What did our "leadership" do and where was the community outrage when... Junta, Molle, Collins and Stratton Formally Indicted In Connection With Reading Commons Home Invasion An arraignment date has not yet been set. March 15, 2011 0 Comments Police, High School Warn of Drug and Alcohol Use Among Reading Teens Reading youths may have been buying drugs or alcohol via text message. By Matt Casey Email the author March 2, 2011 0 Comments Reading Youth Charged With Striking a Reading Officer with a Vehicle Group of girls flee vehicle in North Reading. 0 Comments On the otherhand there was plenty of concern for these "important" issues: Selectmen Order Halt to Bulldogs' Music 92 Comments Selectmen Ease on Bulldogs, Allow Player Announcements 28 Comments School Committee Will Not Name High School Field After Hollingsworth 13 Comments
Richard W. Kendall August 26, 2011 at 03:30 AM
If you would like me to come and address the group about what I see across the country training parents, students, teachers, physicians, nurses, firefighters, and police officers about the signs and symptoms of dangerous street drugs of abuse, please let me know. Attorney Richard W. Kendall, North Reading, 978-664-4200
Gregory August 26, 2011 at 05:37 AM
Im sorry but you parents dont have a clue the extent of the problem, THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR MORE THEN 10 YEARS. Ive seen freshman shooting up heroin, you need to understand that this could have been prevented if reading didnt want to keep there bubble image. You want to help then do research and stop pretending reading is a utopian society. You need to understand the power of opiates its not like other drugs it causes apathy, long term use will turn a baseball or hockey star to a bum begging for change or looking in your house for copper they can steal. If your on the internet and posting start looking up the symptoms of opiate addiction, watch intervention, and dont think that it cant happen to your family it could be right now and you wouldnt even no.... STOP UNDERESTIMATING and do your homework
Dave Miskinis August 26, 2011 at 11:00 AM
Well said Gregory. It seems to me that many of the contributors here might be parents of young children who all of a sudden are frightened by the headlines and tragedies. I'm not criticising because I was you several years ago and i had no clue about these issues. They seemed far away. at the time but they do gain on you in a hurry. Undoubtedly, no matter who your children are, they will eventually "know" someone or of someone who does drugs. Based on stories I've heard, the experimentation starts in middle schoo (speaking of pot only). And yes, those who play sports are not immune to it. Attorney Kendall - I don't know you but I thank you for offering your help. It sure beats the hysteria on this board.
Dave Miskinis August 26, 2011 at 11:03 AM
Bravo Cher!!!!! Don't forget the town employees whose home was raided only to find a cache of drugs and money???? Where is he these days????
Paul August 26, 2011 at 11:55 AM
This was posted in June here on the Patch http://reading.patch.com/blog_posts/rcasa-reaches-out-to-reduce-opiate-abuse
Cheryl Buono August 26, 2011 at 12:30 PM
A youth membership at the Y is around $100 for 6 months. Apparently about the same as the cost of 3 percs. Y provides financial support for those who really can't afford it. BTW, the Y used to hold teen dances but had to stop because of all the drunk teens attending. So a Rec center doesn't solve the problem - just provides another venue. Not unlike football under the lights. We were told by our town leaders that this would give kids something to do so they wouldn't get into trouble. In reality, there's drinking before the games in the parking lot and in the surrounding neighborhoods. There are teen fans drinking in the stands. There are after-parties that include ...
Nikki August 26, 2011 at 01:16 PM
Quite often the Police Logs in the local papers state that teens are cited for "legal limits" of marijuana. Does the RPD then notify the parents about these citations?
Shawn Amkr Dickinson August 26, 2011 at 09:26 PM
Marijuana is the LEAST of this town's worries, given the ammount of prescription pill abuse and opiate abuse (Oxycontin, Heroin, Suboxone) and related deaths in the area. I really would hope the RPD would learn from these incidents and leave the harmless marijuana user alone, and focus more of their attention on the REAL crimes, the hard drugs, robberies and murders (which have been RACKING up in Reading recently). I agree with Gregory that alot of these tragedies could have been avoided if this town would stop with it's bull "holy than thou" image it's cultured for itself, stop acting like Reading is the cream of the crop. WE ARE NOT ANDOVER AND NEVER WILL BE for christ sakes. Stop trying to turn our middle class suburban town into something it is not.
Shawn Amkr Dickinson August 26, 2011 at 09:37 PM
Also, RIP Joe Ronan, and my condolences to his family. I knew Joe, albeit not that well, he was a very nice guy, and always seemed to have a smile on his face. I was pretty shocked when I found out what had happened. We were in the same 07 graduating class of Reading memorial High together. I didn't mean for my rant to seem insincere.
Cheryl Buono August 27, 2011 at 02:50 PM
Shawn wasn't paying attention on Decisions class. Marijuana is associated with school failure. Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, motivation, memory, and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks after its immediate effects wear off—especially in chronic users. Someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time. Compared with their nonsmoking peers, students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school. Long-term marijuana users report decreased overall life satisfaction, including diminished mental and physical health, memory and relationship problems, lower salaries, and less career success. High doses of marijuana can cause psychosis or panic during intoxication. Although scientists do not yet know whether the use of marijuana causes chronic mental illness, high doses can induce an acute psychosis (disturbed perceptions and thoughts, including paranoia) and/or panic attacks. In people who already have schizophrenia, marijuana use can worsen psychotic symptoms, and evidence to date suggests a link between early marijuana use and an increased risk of psychosis among those with a preexisting vulnerability for the disease. CONT"D
Cheryl Buono August 27, 2011 at 02:54 PM
CONT'D Marijuana is addictive. Repeated marijuana use can lead to addiction—which means that people often cannot stop when they want to, even though it undermines many aspects of their lives. Marijuana is estimated to produce addiction in approximately 9 percent, or roughly 1 in 11, of those who use it at least once. This rate increases to about 1 in 6, or 16 percent, for users who start in their teens, and 25–50 percent among daily users. Moreover, 4.3 million of the more than 7 million people who abused or were addicted to any illicit drug in 2009 were dependent on marijuana. And among youth receiving substance abuse treatment, marijuana accounts for the largest percentage of admissions: 63 percent among those 12–14, and 69 percent among those 15–17. Marijuana is UNSAFE if you are behind the wheel. Marijuana compromises judgment and affects many other skills required for safe driving: alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. Marijuana use makes it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. Marijuana is the most commonly identified illicit drug in fatal accidents (~14 percent of drivers), sometimes in combination with alcohol or other drugs. In fact, even small amounts of alcohol, when combined with marijuana use, can be very dangerous—more so than either one alone.
Cheryl Buono August 27, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Haven't heard about "good ole" Joe G lately. Remember innocent until proven guilty. HE does have a lot of friends in town. Haven't heard from any parents either on what they found on their kids phones. I wonder how many were suprised to see who was listed on the contact list.
Reading girl September 02, 2011 at 09:48 PM
Hammertime, I could not agree more!!! Weed your own garden, great line!!! It has been proven the the D.A.R.E. program was a complete waste of money. Sure it got the town extra funds & some got a fancy new cruiser but it did not work. Maybe an anonymous hotline would help with confidential information that could lead to arrests. Just a thought. There also needs to be available rehab. Right now there is a very long wait for a bed in a rehab facility. We can send BILLIONS to other countries who hate us, maybe it is time to spend some $ to help our children.
Reading girl September 02, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Gregory...I feel your pain. Unfortunately sometimes it takes a double tragedy, like we just had, to get the wheels in motion. I for one have not forgotten all the people who have died from drugs in our town. I do not have an answer but hopefully the community will come together & think of one. If it just saves one life it will be worth it.
Reading girl September 02, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Reading girl September 02, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Unfortunately one of the most popular gateway drugs is ALCOHOL, which is legal.


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