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Suburbia Needs To Talk Honestly About Drugs

Rick Green

December 12, 2008

It happens this fast.

On a Monday morning last August, 18-year-old Ian Wells was back in Wethersfield after a summer away traveling and working at a sleep-over camp.

Within a few hours he would be injecting heroin, the old drug that has found new life in suburban Hartford.

Ian's mother, Sheila, called after she read my column 10 days ago about a fatal Glastonbury heroin overdose. She wanted me to know it isn't always so simple.

Parents think they are doing everything, but sometimes that is not enough, she said in a voice so soft I could barely hear.

Wells told me how Ian was eager to see his friends after spending three weeks as a banjo-playing camp counselor and before that traveling to California with his parents for an extended vacation and family reunion.

That night paramedics found Ian dead. There were two small puncture marks in his left biceps.

Earlier that day, just after noon, Wells and a friend caught a ride into the South End of Hartford with David Webster, an elderly man they knew. They bought four bags of heroin, two for each of them.

They paid $10 apiece.

Less than an hour later, the two were back in Wethersfield at 71-year-old Webster's house, a man who police say allows teenagers to hang out unsupervised at his home. Wells and his 18-year-old friend injected the heroin in a filthy upstairs bedroom.

Wells, perhaps in distress, passed out on a bed. His friend went off to work.

Webster, who remained in the house, told police he thought Wells was "sleeping."

In the uncertain hours that followed, nobody called for the cops or an ambulance.

One day there is a moody, musical boy who loves bluegrass and blues. He is a mandolin-picking tree climber, dedicated to his friends, the outdoors and a faithful cat named Julio, who still waits for him in his empty bedroom. Then he is dead.

"He made a terrible mistake. He was just getting started," Sheila Wells said as we sat with her husband, Steve, in their living room. They remain angry that no one was charged in connection with their son's overdose.

"We thought maybe he had turned a corner. He was open. He was talking to us more," Sheila Wells said. "This was totally unexpected."

"This town has a DARE program, but after that, there is nothing. These kids need more information," she said.

I called Michael Kohlhagen, Wethersfield's superintendent of schools, who said the town was planning "a major prevention initiative."

There will be "major steps" to enforce the town's zero tolerance drug policy, Kohlhagen said, directing me to the schools website.

But unlike some other suburban towns, Wethersfield does not have an active parent-school group where drug and alcohol issues are discussed.

"Parents are concerned but cautious. They are not willing to step out," said Betty Standish, a mother trying to organize parents. "They need to talk. We need a community forum."

We need more than that.

Parents aren't talking enough, to children or each other. "Friends" ignore their buddy as he dies. Teenagers overdose on heroin and no one stands up and asks what the hell is going on.

Is there nobody a mayor, a superintendent of schools, a coalition of parents who feels there is something more important to do than send flowers to the Wells family?

"If other people take this as a wake-up call, that this stuff is available and children are using it, I'd be happy about that," Sheila Wells told me.

But she added, "I'd like to have my son."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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