More than 40 parents, grandparents, educators and elected officials from the Alden area gathered in Village Hall this week for a presentation by the Alden Substance Abuse Coalition.
The coalition was formed to provide residents with solutions and update them on growing drug abuse issues in Alden, said Colleen Babcock, who helped coordinate the event. The coalition – parents, politicians and law enforcement – plans to meet three or four times a year.
Several speakers gave presentations, including Amherst Town Judge Mark G. Farrell, who runs the Amherst Drug Court, and Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Kent, a lifelong Alden resident who also patrols the area. Village Mayor Michael Manicki, who opened the meeting, said despite Alden’s small-town feel, it encounters problems faced by larger communities.
“We live in a small community,” he said. “We all think it’s peaceful and bucolic, and that we don’t have any problems. Those of us that know, know: We do have drugs in the community.”
The village court in Alden is seeing an increase in “all kinds of drug cases,” Manicki said.
When confronting drug addiction, he said, “You have to get over denial, and you have to get over the social stigma.”
Farrell gave a presentation on what a drug court offers to addicts making their way through the criminal justice system.
“The way that the criminal justice system has dealt with drug addiction in the past has been totally unacceptable, nonpervasive and never got to the heart of the problem, which is trying to interdict the addictive process early on,” he said.
The Amherst Drug Court takes a more therapeutic approach, Farrell said. The court works with addicts to turn them into productive members of society, instead of just punishing them.
Deputy Kent urged those in attendance to let police know when they see something suspicious. “We have our hands full,” he said. “The reason I’m here is to ask for your help.”
Kent also invited William MacCowan, interim principal of Alden Middle School, to address the crowd. MacCowan said he has witnessed the effects of addiction on some of the students with whom he has worked.
MacCowan asked parents to take a look at what is in their drug cabinets, and throw out the prescription pills they no longer use.
Jeff and Cindy Bea closed the meeting speaking about their son Cory, who died from drug use on June 3 at age 24. He was struck by a car in 2005 and became addicted to prescription painkillers, said Jeff Bea, who urged parents to seek alternatives to painkillers, including physical therapy.
“This is a monster, and it does not discriminate,” he said.