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DEA, Expert Panel School Mahwah Parents on Teen Drug Abuse

Parents questioned the panel on random drug testing in schools, warning signs, and how to get help.

NJ DEA Special Agent Carl Kotowski at Thursday Night's MMA parent meeting
NJ DEA Special Agent Carl Kotowski at Thursday Night's MMA parent meeting

Topics ranging from the possibility of random drug testing at Mahwah High School to why experts believe trends of heroin in prescription drug abuse are rising in Bergen County were discussed Thursday night at the Mahwah Municipal Alliance’s Town Hall Parent Meeting on the “Teenage Drug Epidemic.”

About 150 residents gathered at the Sheraton Crossroads for a presentation on recent drug trends in Bergen County by members of the Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA officers then joined a panel of local experts that included Mahwah police officers, MHS Principal John Pascale, a doctor from Valley Hospital, a lawyer, and a drug and alcohol therapist for a Q&A session on teen drug use.

“Right now, it’s heroin, synthetic drugs, and prescription drugs,” DEA Special Agent Carl Kotowski told parents of the top trends they are seeing in Bergen County and across the state.

“The situation is here in Mahwah, it’s here in New Jersey. It’s happening across the US.”

Law enforcement officials warned parents of a common trajectory they are seeing, where kids begin by taking prescription pills, but move to heroin because it produces a similar high for a much cheaper price.

Most questions parents asked during the forum focused on how to prevent teen drug use, and how to detect it once it's started. Several parents asked about the possibility of random drug testing at Mahwah High School.

“Our current policy is to deal with students who exhibit behavioral indicators,” of drug abuse, Pascale said.

“Some schools offer programs where students can sign up to be randomly drug tested. We’ve looked into it. Currently…we’re comfortable with looking for behavioral indicators. I don’t think random drug testing is the end all be all.”

The panel advised parents not to be a source of drugs, especially leftover prescription pills.

Mahwah Police Chief Jim Batelli said the PD has applied for a permanent unused prescription medication drop-off site to be placed at police headquarters. At the DEA-sponsored ‘Operation Take Back’ that Mahwah participated in on Oct. 26, “we collected over 70 pounds of pills in just four hours,” Batelli said.

“That was one of the highest amounts in Bergen County.”

MMA members said they hoped the parent forum was helpful and informative, and called the issue, “an important one in our community that we can all work together to address.”

Andy Schmidt November 15, 2013 at 09:28 AM
Since the BoE is operating with a 500-600K surplus each year, we should take a small fraction of that annual surplus and fund a school resource officer for the high school again (like we had for several years with (then) Officer Curtis). Parents from that time will remember the HUGE impact his presence had! A school resource office ON SITE would at LEAST deter drug activity at our schools -- and would also cut response time in case the next "Garden State Mall" style shooter happens to freak out in OUR town!
Bob November 15, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Wow Andy, way to latch on to isolated incidents and assume lightning will strike "in my town" too! Just like every small town in America after 9/11. "What if it happens here? We need defenses against terrorists" well, statistically, it won't. Perhaps we should address the local doctors that hand out prescriptions for synthetic opiates every time someone has minor pain? When did Ibuprofen stop working? Oh, that would stop the flow of cash to the doctors, the pharma companies and of course, law enforcement on all levels who require "a war on drugs" to justify their insane budgets.

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