Anti-drug event targets LI's young students

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A Kings Park community group plans to hold a drug abuse awareness event Wednesday night for youths and their parents at the William T. Rogers Middle School, in the wake of evidence showing younger children are using drugs.

"Kids are using substances earlier, so we have to educate kids and their parents earlier," said Maureen Rossi, chairwoman of Kings Park in the Know, which is organizing the event with the Kings Park Central School District.

The program will feature a 7 p.m. film showing, followed by a question-and-answer session with officials from a local drug treatment and prevention facility. Students must be accompanied by an adult to see the short documentary "Dying High: Teens in the ER," which shows teens who have abused drugs or alcohol in a Westchester emergency room.

Rossi said it has been more than a decade since most Long Island schools have regularly offered drug prevention programs such as D.A.R.E. Linda Ventura, a Kings Park resident whose son Thomas, 21, died of a heroin overdose two years ago, will share her experience.

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Thomas Ventura graduated from Kings Park High School in 2008 and was a popular lacrosse player who also played football and wrestled, she said: "He was an all-American kid who made a series of bad choices."

She founded Thomas' Hope, an organization that raises money for addicts to attend rehabilitation facilities and take educational courses while in recovery.

Ventura added that parents know instinctively if something is wrong with their children, but said that addicts and their families are often in denial.

"Don't be afraid to make them take a drug test . . . because the monster only gets bigger at the end of the road," she said.

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