Brainstorming session attracts government officials, concerned citizens
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Think your child is too smart, athletic, or well-adjusted to become addicted to heroin? That’s a dangerously inaccurate view, said participants in a forum on Saturday.
Organized by Andy Rumford, a Kennett Square resident whose 23-year-old daughter, Kacie Erin Rumford, died of a heroin overdose in March, the brainstorming session at the Longwood Fire Company drew nearly 100 participants. They ranged from a lawmaker to law-enforcement officials, from grieving parents to recovering addicts, from mayors to social workers.
Rumford said he wanted to bring people with different vantage points together in hopes of raising awareness and exploring solutions to combatting a disease that continues to spread, transforming its victims into liars, manipulators and thieves. “We have an opportunity to effect change,” Rumford said. “No parent should ever have to write their child’s obituary.”
For more than an hour and a half, participants stressed the need to recognize the scope of the problem and learn the warning signs, which can include a change in sleep patterns, a lack of appetite, euphoria and inattention at school or work.
Magisterial District Judge Daniel J. Maisano said truancy can often signal a dependency problem, and Magisterial District Judge Matthew Seavey said he recommends the programs of the Chester County Council on Addictive Diseases (COAD) whenever he deals with underage drinking.
District Attorney Tom Hogan, who received applause for a recent bust of heroin dealers, vowed that his office will continue its fight, but he urged parents to be vigilant. Hogan suggested periodic checks of children’s computers and cellphones. “There are no boundaries with your children,” he said. “Violate their privacy and protect them.”
Kennett Square Police Chief Edward A. Zunino said the battle has been waged for many years and will continue. Asked by a parent what the public can do to help, Zunino said, “If you see something, say something. Too often we hear, ‘We don’t want to bother you.’”
Kennett Consolidated School District Superintendent Barry Tomasetti pledged the support of the school district. “It’s a worry as a father,” he said, “it’s a worry as a superintendent.”
Rep. Chris Ross, who expressed concern that government is not doing enough to solve the problem, urged some of the recovering addicts who spoke to take their stories to church and school groups. “Kids sometimes tune out adults,” he said.
But one former addict, who credits Narcotics Anonymous with saving his life, questioned the effectiveness of anti-drug campaigns. “It’s still treated as a moral deficiency,” he said of addiction. “I don’t think it can be prevented.”
Rumford said some of his daughter’s drug-dependent friends cried with him at her funeral. “They’re still using,” he said.
Luis Tovar, an East Marlborough Township resident and member of the Kacies Cause team, facilitated the discussion. Tovar, who nearly lost a daughter to heroin, said he was talking about drug abuse with his barber, who noted that many “parents are clueless,” describing one mother who dropped her son off for a haircut and “he’s higher than a kite.”
Many speakers suggested that knowing the warning signs can facilitate intervention. Toward that end, Rumford has distributed fliers in hundreds of local businesses and will continue to do so. He said he also plans to continue the town-hall gatherings and is looking for other venues. He said he would compile a synopsis of Saturday’s event, including recommended programs, and email it to participants.