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Criminals' seized profits pays for anti-drug training

In an ongoing effort to curb heroin and other drug use among teenagers, Nassau County has set aside $180,000 seized from criminals to pay for drug prevention training.

The latest initiative is the third part of a three-prong approach to combat drug use among teenagers, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said Monday at a news conference at the county's police academy in Massapequa Park. The money will be used to train school officials, substance-abuse counselors and law-enforcement personnel.

"We're taking the profits away from the drug dealers, the assets away from the drug dealers, and we're channeling them directly back to drug prevention, enforcement, awareness and education," said Mangano. "That's Nassau County's approach to solving the epidemic that affects all of us here in Nassau County."

In February, Mangano had announced the first two prongs of his approach to combating heroin. The first was an enforcement initiative called Operation H.A.L.T. (Heroin Abuse Location & Targeting), which targets users traveling in and out of the county to buy heroin. The second was an awareness initiative, which was the creation and dissemination of an ad campaign aimed at alerting parents to the heroin epidemic. During the past four years, Nassau saw heroin-related arrests jump about 350 percent, police said.

Launched by the Mendez Foundation, based in Tampa, Fla., "Too Good for Drugs" is a school-based program that teaches students from K-12 coping skills that would, in turn, lead them to make "good" decisions regarding drug use.

Thirty-six men and women, including those from 16 school districts in Nassau, have signed up to learn methods of the "Too Good for Drugs" program, which is designed to teach students how to say no to drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

"Today's component, I think, is the most important component," Mulvey said.

Michael Nagler, superintendent of the Mineola School District, said he has reviewed some of the teaching materials and likes what he saw so far. "It really focuses on self-esteem," Nagler said. "It teaches the value of not doing drugs."

Nagler said Mineola sent a social worker who teaches drug and alcohol awareness programs in the district to learn the ways of the "Too Good for Drugs" program. He applauded the Nassau police department for reaching out to school districts.

"That partnership is always good," Nagler said. "Prevention is always better than having children arrested."

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