It's No Wonder The Drug Problem Is Worsening

Maureen Searle •

To the editor:

I have great respect for Dorothy Hertz and the work that she has done for the town. But there seem to be several points missing in her letter about the rising tide of substance abuse on the island that is having a profound effect on Nantucket youth.
The elephant in the room is the pandemic. Nantucket was not immune from the effect that the pandemic had on the mental health and academic performance of the public school students. Teachers have noted how much additional support they need, again both academically and emotionally. One has to suppose that the kids will turn to drugs if they are available to “treat” the suffering that they are experiencing.
I am very glad that Dorothy cited the startling statistic about the dramatic increase in poverty among public school students. This no doubt adds to the suffering.
This poverty occurs as houses regularly sell for over $5 million. I take issue with the comment that “tourism” is the only “sustainable” source of income for the island. Tourism is a poor second to development, to home construction, to home renovation, and to the proceeds of the real estate industry.
Nantucket may be a small, isolated island in the Atlantic but it is not poor. Then, again, for some time, it has been becoming two societies: the very rich who can afford to live on the island, and the poor who serve them. The very rich need an army of workers to do the landscaping, the housekeeping, the pool cleaning, the constant fix ups for their property, including more major building and renovation.
The kids are not ignorant. They observe all this, as many of their families struggle to pay for housing, food, and health care. Is there any wonder that there is a drug problem, one worsening, on the island?
While all the money being spent on mental health services is impressive, one has to ask what the island community is getting for all the money spent?
What has the Behavioral Health Task Force accomplished thus far, and I am talking about real progress in people’s lives, not more plans, proposals, and agendas?
The really sad thing is that kids who are suffering today are the adults of the future for Nantucket, the ones who will be needed to lead the island into an uncertain future.Too many adults, those who aspire to be part of the rich class, have been spending their time pursuing the wealth the island offers in its building and real estate wheeling and dealing. They have not given enough thought to the future. Maybe they feel that they should grab what they can now while it lasts, but the future is not in the far distance. The kids with the substance abuse and the vandalism are screaming for attention, adult attention. If the island is to have a future, the adults will have to spend their time, not only their money, on the kids.
There are many families who are struggling to survive on the island, and they have children who need attention from adults who could free up the time to give it. This is a form of investment.
This is not rocket science. The kids need someone to listen to them. They need someone to care. If they trust the person, they will learn from them. I know because I was an in-school tutor.
I am glad that there are adults like J. Brent Tartamella, Candace Tetrault, and Dorothy Hertz who are speaking out. Please listen to them, and act.

Maureen Searle

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