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Nassau PSA promotes website to help combat drug use

With the parents of heroin overdose victim Natalie Ciappa at his side, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano filmed a pitch Wednesday to parents and friends of drug abusers to seek help at a new, county-sponsored website.

"We hope to have . . . [the PSA] and the website up and running by the end of August," Mangano said, adding that the announcement will be filmed for free and that he hopes television and radio stations and movie theaters will run it for free.

Mangano's public service announcement is Nassau's latest move to combat heroin and other illegal drug use that is growing into what some officials call an "epidemic" on Long Island.

It follows the county's Operation HALT (Heroin Abuse Location and Targeting), announced in February, for law enforcement to stop the flow of heroin into Nassau.

"Heroin is a killer. If you don't think it can happen to your son or daughter, think again," Mangano said, starting the PSA.

He was followed by Doreen Ciappa, of Massapequa, who said: "Our 18-year old daughter, Natalie, was a victim."

Ciappa and her husband, Victor, were holding a picture of their daughter. On June 21, 2008, they found her at a friend's house in Seaford, where she lay dead on a couch in an attached garage/recreation room.

Natalie, a senior at Plainedge High School, a gifted singer and cheerleader preparing to go to SUNY Old Westbury that fall, had overdosed once before, the family said.

Since their daughter's death, the couple has spoken widely on the issue of children and drugs, frequently saying that there were so many things they could have done that might have saved their daughter. So now, through the public service announcement, they are trying to help other children and parents.

"Through education, awareness and enforcement we can save lives," Victor Ciappa said for the PSA.

The Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force, prompted by the death of Ciappa and others, will offer more help through a website.

"Too many of our young people are dying from heroin," Mangano said in the PSA. "If someone you know is hooked on heroin, we can help."

The website will have various Web pages, such as one for parents and one for teens. It will list signs of heroin use and signs of an overdose; where to get treatment - outpatient, inpatient and detox, as well as startling facts about the drug, such as the latest county medical examiner's numbers that show an average of three heroin-related deaths in Nassau every month.

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