M’town panel weighed in on drug and alcohol prevention

The Middletown Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse presented “Reaching Out” tonight in town hall.

The room was packed full of fifth-graders and their parents, many eager to question the panel about the use, prevention and consequences of drug and alcohol abuse.

The panel consisted of Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger, Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante, Police Chief Robert Oches, Judge Richard Thompson, Superintendent Karen Bilbao and Middletown High School South student Ashley Bedell.

The Wheeler sisters, Erin and Alison, also spoke about their brother DJ, who was killed in an alcohol-related car accident.

The panel, all members of the alliance, opened the event stating why programs like this are important in a community such as Middletown.

The students were allowed to pose questions and, as Mike Slover put it, the session was meant to “hammer” the panel: Slover wanted the tough questions asked.

Some of the questions included the following:
  • Where do drugs come from?
  • What would you do if you knew your child was addicted to drugs?
  • What is the most addictive drug?
  • What is the most common drug in Middletown? and, my personal favorite,
  • How do you [the leaders of the township] deal with the pressure?

The mayor fielded that last question, and his candid answer had the room fit to be tied. As to his answer, he replied: “It’s not so bad. Out of the 69,000 residents in Middletown, only a handful come to yell at me at the meetings.”

The other 68,997 prefer to grumble in priviate, I guess.

On another note, it was a great event I think deserves more attention. These kids are 10 years old: They’re 10 and they’re already learning how to prevent drug and alcohol abuse. When I was 10, I don’t even think I knew what drugs were. My, how times have changed.

Let’s hope programs like these truly do create safer and more comfortable environments for the young people to grow up in.

To read more about the alliance, its programs and “Reaching Out,” pick up next week’s issue of The Courier.

PHOTO: CANDID The mayor and township administrator take drug and alcohol prevention very seriously, as all they could crack were bad jokes the entire night. (Melissa L. Gaffney)

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Filed under Anthony Mercantante, Ashley Bedell, Chief Robert Oches, Karen Bilbao, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger, Middletown, Mike Slover, Richard Thompson, The Wheeler Family

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