By Staff Writer
Teen vaping and drug use is the focal point of a Latino parent initiative launched on February 16, with a forum organized by OLA of Eastern Long Island in collaboration with the East Hampton Town Police Department. The forum drew 24 Latino community members who were there to learn how to recognize signs of drug use in their children, how drug use affects the developing brain, and the importance of good parent-school and parent-child communication, among many other topics. Sergeant Kenneth Alversa delivered the presentation in English, with officer Juan Buitrago providing Spanish interpretation.
The forum serves to launch a broader OLA initiative that will include a presentation on how to administer Narcan, which is used to save a person overdosing from opioids, as well as a “train the trainer” program for Latino parents so that they can share this information with other Spanish-speaking parents.
Latino parents in East Hampton Town approached OLA with concerns about vaping and drug use among middle-schoolers, wanting to better understand how to recognize the signs of substance use and how to talk in constructive ways about it with their children. OLA Project Hope Coordinator Andrés Espinosa and a Project Hope crisis counselor, Jessica Tovar, worked with OLA Executive Director Minerva Perez to organize the forum.
“Our goal is to ensure that all community members stay informed,” Ms. Perez said. “We also want to provide Latino parents with more opportunities to participate directly in creating a safer, healthier community. A train-the-trainer program focused on these issues, which hit home for so many families regardless of ethnicity, will provide an outlet for Latino parent community engagement and leadership.”
“As a parent of two children in middle school, our family was very concerned about our children and their school friends having access to vaping devices and drug paraphernalia,” said Mr. Espinosa. “OLA reached out to the school districts and to the police department, and we were able to set up a meeting for Hispanic parents, to educate them and make them aware of the big risks our kids are facing and how they are exposed to these things at a very young age.”