, Derry, New Hampshire

November 14, 2013

Father speaks at substance abuse forum

Counselors, medical experts and law enforcement give facts on how to stay safe

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — Steve Flanigan remembers his daughter Brittany as a vibrant, smart young woman who was excited about college and her future.

He never thought she would die of a drug overdose.

Flanigan spoke during a forum on substance misuse last week at Pinkerton Academy, hosted by the Greater Derry Health Public Health Network and other community partners.

Brittany Flanigan, 19, a Pinkerton Academy graduate, died in August after falling ill at a concert at a Boston nightclub.

Her father wants to let others know what he went through and how important it is for parents to truly know what’s going on with their children.

“My daughter could have been any one of your kids,” Flanigan told the audience. “We were an average family. She went that night to Boston with friends.”

His daughter’s death prompted him to speak out to let others know the dangers of certain drugs in recreational situations.

“She made a decision, they took a little Molly and drank some water,” he said.

Flanigan was joined by a panel of community experts on substance abuse, including counselors, medical personnel and law enforcement.

Tym Rourke of the N.H. Charitable Foundation and the Governor’s Council on Substance Misuse said New Hampshire is low on the list of states where ample treatment is offered for those dealing with drug abuse and alcohol issues.

“This is a black mark on New Hampshire as a healthy state,” he said. “Our substance abuse rates are beyond scale.”

That means high rates of use, with not enough resources in place for those seeking assistance.

Other panelists included Derry police Capt. Vern Thomas; Pam Santa Fe, prevention coordinator for the Greater Public Health Network; and Upper Room counseling staff.

The panel heard scenarios of drug use and gave their opinions on how the situation would be handled from the emergency room to legal ramifications for those using the drugs and for parents who may be aware of their children hosting underage drinking parties at their homes.

Parents asked the panel questions about what resources are available in the community.

It all comes down to trusting your children, experts say, and knowing what is going on with their friends, their social media sites and their lives.

“Trust your kids, but verify,” County Attorney Jim Reams said. “If you think something is going on, it probably is.”

For Flanigan, it was not a sense of not trusting his daughter. He just never expected her to die from drugs.

“Let this be a call to action, to let you know what can happen,” he said. “We didn’t expect the loss of our daughter, but this is the reality of what goes on.”