CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE®:
The dark-green convertible couch where twenty-year-old Ian Eaccarino died of a heroin and valium overdose eighteen years ago is a silent presence in the basement studio that was his bedroom. His sister Candace, who has Down Syndrome, sleeps on it every Tuesday night when she visits from the group home where she lives in Fairfield, CT. Every week, she puts its cushions on the floor, covers them with a blanket and makes a bed for her brother. “Ian comes down from the clouds,” she insists, “and sleeps there.”
At the other end of the room, Ian’s mother Ginger Katz has established headquarters for The Courage to Speak® Foundation, Inc., a project that took shape in the dark months following her son’s death. “When I see Candace cry, I get angry with Ian for causing her so much pain,” she says softly, “but I know it was the drugs. Drugs make you crazy. Drugs stole Ian from us.”
Ginger Katz is determined to break what she calls “the conspiracy of silence”around the disease of teen drug abuse and addiction. Speaking as a parent who has experienced the ultimate loss, she has been telling Ian’s story all over the country, sharing insights with parents about the signs of drug abuse and educating young people ranging from elementary school through college.
In 2009, the Courage to Speak Foundation received a grant from the federal government to build capacity and to evaluate its elementary, middle, and high school Curriculum and the Courage to Speak – Courageous Parenting 101®with positive outcomes.
The Courage to Speak® Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization founded by Ginger Katz that fosters open communication about the prevention of alcohol and other drug use among young people. Ginger has been inspired to speak out about the code of silence surrounding drug abuse in teens by the untimely death of her son, Ian, to whom her effort is dedicated.
Since 1996, she has given over 1000 presentations nationally, reaching hundreds of thousands of middle school, high school, and college students and their parents. Addressing young people, concerned parents, educators, state and local officials, community leaders and law enforcement professionals, Ginger tells her son’s story. Through it she weaves powerful prevention information and identifies denial and enabling as part of the disease. She asks parents to listen and young people to speak out, encouraging an honest, open dialogue between peers and generations.