Students attend mandatory substance abuse forum

When TPAUD, or Trumbull Partnership Against Underage Drinking and Drugs, began its annual anti-substance abuse forum in 2005, founder Vicki Tesoro was concerned about the alarming rates of underage drinking. Since then, the organization has branched out into battling other forms of substance abuse, even changing the name from TPAUD to indicate the widened focus.

“Ultimately, TPAUD’s goal is to begin the ‘conversation’ at home about alcohol and drugs between parents and their children,” Tesoro said.

About 500 freshmen students attended the curriculum-required forum with their parents.

Emily Fox, the student moderator, introduced the seven speakers throughout the evening, including MADD CT President Colleen Sheehey-Church, who on a pre-recorded video recounted the loss of her son Dustin.

After a night with friends, Dustin drowned in the Housatonic River, trapped in the back seat of a car driven by an intoxicated friend. His autopsy revealed that he was sober and even wearing his seat belt. His friends got out, he did not.

The next two speakers, police Chief Michael Lombardo and attorney Tom Tesoro, each focused on the criminal and subsequent legal ramifications for both minors and adults. The Social Hosting Law holds accountable anyone who “enables” children and expands parental liability, Tesoro explained. Despite showing legal statutes on the screen, Tesoro preferred to relate the harsh reality of how people can lose their home and personal finances if illegal activity is conducted at their home.

Next was Matt DeLuca, 30, who recounted the loneliness of being only a freshman in high school with a frightening family secret: his brother was a heroin addict. Since there was no one he could talk to, Matt bottled up his feelings and turned to alcohol and drugs.

“At first it was fun,” he said, emphasizing how his addiction came slowly. DeLuca has been sober since April 2014 and works with CARES, an organization that offers support for those with addiction.

Sharon Davidson, a math teacher at Brookfield High School and mother of four children, described her eldest daughter, Katie, as engaging and funny. However, she began to change in high school, becoming depressed and anxious … and self-medicating. Soon the family was deeply impacted, fraught with fighting and lying. No one outside the family knew. In 2013, her daughter entered a treatment facility in Florida, but recovery took time and relapses occurred.

“When the entire family reunited for a family wedding in May 2014, we were overjoyed to see Katie,” she said. “The long-awaited happiness had finally come to fruition.”

Sadly, it was short lived. In June 2014, Katie was having some personal problems and overdosed on heroin.

Trumbull High School interventionist Bill Mecca concluded the forum by reminding students and parents that the staff at the high school is there to guide them in academics and leadership, and to encourage students to speak up about these issues when they encounter them.