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Ossining Series Features Musician, 17, Who Died Of Overdose

Rachel Schoolcraft, Jeffrey Veatch and Ellen Morehouse discuss drug use at the Ossining library.
Rachel Schoolcraft, Jeffrey Veatch and Ellen Morehouse discuss drug use at the Ossining library. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

OSSINING, N,Y. -- Yorktown resident Justin Veatch was only 17 when he overdosed on heroin in September 2008, though his legacy is lasting a lifetime.

The Ossining documentary and discussion series screened "Whispering Spirits" last Thursday. The documentary focuses on Veatch and how after his death, a CD was put out featuring his music.

His family also created The Justin Veatch Fund, which provides scholarships for musically talented teens. Veatch's father, Jeffrey, goes to schools and delivers "A Message From Justin," warning teens about the dangers of drug use.

Veatch, along with Ellen Morehouse, executive director of Student Assistant Services Corp. and Dr. Rachel Schoolcraft, who works for Phelps Memorial Hospital Center's Addiction Treatment Services, participated in a discussion after the screening.

"Justin died of a drug overdose in his room, that was 10  feet away from us," Veatch said. "We didn't have a clue."

After hearing that Justin had died, Veatch went home and saw the medical examiner's van in the driveway.

"He was in a bodybag," Veatch said. "I touched his him, and he wan't there. It was the most awful moment I can imagine anyone experiencing."

Veatch said 10 days before Justin's death, he was skateboarding in Arizona.

"He was the picture of health," Veatch said. "His mother still has trouble coming to terms with his death. We can all learn from Justin."

According to Veatch, one out of five teens has smoked marijuana, one out of five has abused prescription drugs and 28 percent know someone who has tried Ecstasy.

"He was in pain, and we didn't know why," Veatch said. "He had anxieties and depression that caused him to self-medicate. The chemistry made him worse. It was a small amount of heroin, that was enough for him to never wake up."

Moorehouse said parents should let other parents know if they hear of their child having a problem.

"Don't let me be the last to know," Moorehouse said. "Make the call."

Schoolcraft said patients are addicted to a wide variety of substances, with 30 percent being addicted to opiates.

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