From his perch at Crossroads Ace Hardware, A.J. “Red” Izzo sees and hears a lot.
But in his 78 years in Westport, the former 2nd selectman candidate and Republican Town Committee member says, he’s never seen anything comparable to this. Izzo calls it a “life-and-death situation.”
He’s talking about “a major drug epidemic” — in the town, county and state — and an equally alarming rise in depression. Too few people are talking about these issues, he says.
Izzo hears of the vast amount of prescriptions doctors are writing. Of young people stealing pills from parents. Of the easy availability of drugs of all kinds, and the lack of services for anyone wishing to get off the roller-coaster of addiction.
“When I was growing up, Westport had 5,000 people and 2 facilities — the Westport Sanitarium (on what is now Winslow Park) and Hall-Brooke,” Izzo says.
“Now we’ve got 26,000 people, and nothing.”
Izzo says that too many Westporters are not talking about the twin scourges of drugs and depression.
“This is killing people,” he notes. “I don’t know the answer. But we have to understand the severity of it. It’s not a black/white, right/wrong issue. We have to start talking about causes and effects and solutions.”
Izzo shakes his head.
“I’m concerned about the young people. People of every age have to understand this is here, and it’s real. If we don’t face up to it, bad things happen.”