JCC Steps Up Anti-Drug Efforts

Many fought back tears during Avi Israel’s speech.

The Buffalo man, a retired electrician turned parent advocate, came to March’s countywide drug forum in Mayville to talk about his 20-year-old son, Michael, who tragically killed himself in 2011 after a long struggle with opiate addiction.

“This 20-year-old boy did not have to die,” Israel exclaimed to the audience, emotionally. “If we don’t do anything about this (drug epidemic), we can kiss the next generation goodbye.”

Indeed, Israel’s testimonial put a fresh spotlight on how drugs can overwhelm the lives of young people, many of whom defy in every way the basic stereotype of the drug addict.

Michael Israel, for example, went to private schools. He was studying architecture at the University at Buffalo.

And unlike other addicts who sparked their addiction by “hanging with the wrong crowd,” Michael Israel became addicted through pain medications, all prescribed – often flippantly – by medical professionals attempting to treat his Crohn’s disease.

“Fifty-four percent of young kids over the age of 14 have tried prescription drugs,” Israel said. “That alone should tell you we have a serious problem in this country; it’s not an epidemic, it’s a health crisis.”

In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law one of the most sweeping pieces of anti-heroin legislation in years.

Included in its reforms, alongside improved treatment measures and tighter enforcement, was the launch of a targeted awareness campaign aimed at young people at public college and university campuses.

SUNY and CUNY personnel were also requested to work alongside New York State Police to raise awareness about the dangers of heroin and opioid abuse.

Dr. Eileen Goodling, vice president of student development at Jamestown Community College, said a plan was currently underway to enhance anti-drug efforts on campus.

“We’re trying to (make our students) aware of the (local heroin epidemic),” Goodling said. “(We teach them) what the drug looks like and what the symptoms look like. The efforts that we’re taking right now are to be proactive and work toward a goal of achieving and sustaining a drug-free environment.”

Goodling’s efforts seem to be paying off.

According to crime data gathered by JCC and published by the U.S. Department of Education, only one drug-related arrest occurred on the school’s campus in the past five years.

Goodling credits the low number to the school’s outreach to students and its relationship with the Jamestown Police Department.

“While we don’t have campus police, we do work closely with the JPD and will continue to work with the JPD,” she said. “We’ve also really mobilized our health centers, campus life efforts, residence life efforts and our counseling center … to educate the community, the students, faculty and staff of this issue.”

The New York State Police in Jamestown, while not actively engaged with JCC as per the legislation, is more than willing to help the college in its anti-drug efforts, according to Captain Eric J. Balon, zone three commander of the New York State Police.

Perhaps another sign that JCC is remaining engaged with the local anti-drug effort is the fact that the next community drug forum will be held there Monday at the Katharine Jackson Carnahan Center, from 9 a.m. to noon.