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Parent tells of son’s struggle with drug abuse

Reporter – Eleanor Joyce/

As Ginger Katz spoke, pictures of her son, Ian, playing sports and attending his prom were projected onto a screen May 9 at Bacon Academy.

Katz said Ian “was captain of the soccer team, and girls just wouldn’t leave him alone.”
Ian, a college student, died in 1996 from an accidental drug overdose at home in Norwalk at the age of 20.

“His doctor told us to tell people Ian died of a heart attack, but that was a lie,” Katz said. “If this is happening to us, this is happening to other families.”

After Ian’s death, Katz founded The Courage to Speak Foundation. Today, the education and awareness program has reached 40 states, and has 98 instructors.

Katz and her husband, Larry, spoke at Bacon Academy as part of a program sponsored by Colchester Youth Services.
During the day, students went to an assembly to hear the couple’s presentation. In the evening, more than 50 parents, children and community members attended a second session.

Katz recalled that initially, Ian tried to assure his parents, “tobacco, a sip of beer and a little weed, that’s all I do.”
“But Ian soon started to cover up and deny things,” she said. Katz said parents, such as herself, enter a state of denial and sometimes blame themselves. “My job as a parent was to keep him safe,” Katz said.

Ian got counseling and went into a rehabilitation program, where he had to submit to urine testing. “We thought the problem went away,” she said. Instead, Katz said, Ian got better at lying and covering up his drug use.

Katz recommended parents discuss drugs with their children, and that youth have three to five adults that they can talk with.

“If you see someone in trouble, say something. It could save their lives. Kids, it’s all about making good decisions, thinking before you act,” Katz said.

Katz asked the Bacon Academy students earlier in the day why they thought students use drugs and their responses included stress, peer pressure and pain.

Parent Jim Ambrosia attended with his son Cody, 13, who will enter Bacon in the fall.
“It was wonderful. What she said, ‘knowledge is power.’ As a parent you have to get a hold of that power,” Ambrosia said.

Cody said what stood out for him was, “the fact that the drugs are so much more potent now.” Cody said he does have several adults in his life that he can talk to.

Parent Tina Ashley also appreciated Katz’ story.
“She had the courage to share her experience, strength and hope, and that changes lives,” Ashley said.

Get in touch
For more information, email Ginger Katz at or call (877) 431-3295. Contact Colchester Youth Services at or by calling (860) 537-7255.