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Experts: To fight kids' drug use, parents need a plan

As an increasing number of schools and others social agencies across Long Island consider programs to distribute free drug testing kits, some counselors say that testing is only one part of drug abuse treatment.

Tests can be effective if parents also have a plan in place.

"If they have a plan, then they can say if it is positive - then what?" said John Venza, vice president of adolescent services for Outreach Project, which has facilities in Queens and Long Island, an agency providing substance abuse treatment. "Without some type of plan and thinking it through, parents can run the drug test and the way it goes down may not be as effective."

Venza said parents should consult with a health care provider or school social worker either before or after the test, even if the results are negative.

Suffolk County and school officials distributed 350 free home drug test kits Monday night to parents at a meeting at Patchogue-Medford High School as outreach efforts increase across Long Island. The urine drug kits, made by Dallas-based Drug Test Your Teen, detect the presence of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates and amphetamines.

The Suffolk County Sheriff's office said it handed out test kits at the eight school presentations it has done recently.

Jeff Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said parent-administered drug testing kits could be one tool to detect drug abuse.

"There are so many parents in crisis right now on Long Island," he said. "If parents use this as a tool and a door opener to having a conversation, then so be it. Parents need some guidance and information, and can't be left out there alone if your kid tests positive."

Phil Enright, a member of the Comsewogue school district's substance abuse task force and a representative for drugtestyourteen.com, said "more and more school districts are asking, if not for the actual kits, for some information," he said. Other suburban areas nationwide have had similar struggles, company officials said.

There is not much research in this area, and the early research shows mixed results, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A study published in 2007 found that student-athletes who participated in randomized drug testing had overall rates of drug use similar to students who did not take part in the program.

In response to parents seeking help, Joseph Rella, deputy superintendent in Comsewogue, said his district had received 150 kits in April and distributed about 50. The district will distribute kits at a Jan. 26 meeting at the high school.

In the Commack and Sayville school districts, officials will host public meetings on heroin in suburbia later this month.

Peter Moloney, one of the owners of Moloney's Funeral Homes, said the homes will purchase drug testing kits to distribute free of charge in coming weeks to parents who want to pick them up.

"We see the devastation, not only the community, but the families, the brothers and sisters and mothers and dads and friends," he said. "It's just heartbreaking."

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