A mother whose teenage son died last week from apparently overdosing on prescription pain medication at a beer party said that if there is anything to be learned by teens it's that drinking and mixing pills can be fatal.
"I hope his friends get the message. If anyone should take anything away from what happened from JayVaughn is that they learn from what happened, that drinking, period, you shouldn't be doing, let alone mixing alcohol and pills," said Christie Cummings, the mother of the 15-year-old JayVaughn Hosino-Shaw who died Thursday.
"If (teens) feel the need (to drink and take pills), they should reach out to someone or talk about it," she said.
As the teen's family mourned their loss, police on Tuesday continued to investigate the fatal drug overdose. It happened at a Kahului residence where police said the owner of the home was off-island and unaware that young people were in the home partying.
Police said a 19-year-old Kihei man also ingested the medication was observed to be in distress and was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center for treatment and observation.
Police were called at 1:23 p.m. Thursday to respond to a report of an unresponsive male at a Kahului residence. They found the 15-year-old dead at the scene. Police said the teen and the 19-year-old man were seen ingesting pain medication and beer during a party at 12:30 a.m. Thursday.
Cummings said the family is still awaiting the autopsy results and disputed earlier police claims that her son had brought the prescription medication to the party.
She added that her son did not break into the home and that two occupants of the home who are related to the owner were at the home when her son was there with other teens.
"It's very hard. All the unanswered questions. There is a lot of he said she said," Cummings added.
"Like anyone who loses a loved one, the investigation seems to take forever. We're handling it as best we know how as a family."
She added that family members have a lot of support.
"But, of course, nothing is going to replace him or bring him back," she said.
JayVaughn had "many dreams and goals," his mother remembers.
She said he was a popular teen that loved singing, going to the beach and playing football.
When he was younger, he played on Pop Warner youth football teams and last year, played on the Maui High School Junior Varsity football team. She said he couldn't play this year because of his grades.
"Football was everything to him," she said. "He wanted to play for the Oregon Ducks.
"Overall, he was a good kid. He just decided to hang out with the wrong crowd."
She said she warned him about the dangers of drugs and alcohol but said his teenager mentality got to him.
"Teenagers, they don't want to listen," she said.
Officials at the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii on Oahu said they know that teens participate in these types of prescription medication and alcohol parties.
"It's an epidemic on the Mainland," said Alan Shinn, executive director of the coalition. "It just has not reached that epidemic level in the islands, but yet it is possible."
Members of the coalition and Maui police said they did not have data on how frequently or how many of these prescription and alcohol parties occur, but they do know they are ongoing.
Michelle Park, program manager for Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii, said teens are taking other people's pills. Those could include medication for diabetes, heart problems and high-blood pressure.
"They are just getting any kind of random drug they get get their hands on," she said.
She said that on the Mainland they call these parties "pharming (pharmaceutical) parties" or "buffet parties."
There are reports of "floating," or "floatie," parties in which teens and young adults are on floatable devices in the ocean and partying with drugs and alcohol, Park said.
Shinn said the effects of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol could be wide ranging, but at times, the combination could be deadly because it could stop breathing and heart rhythms.
"I doubt if these kids will know what these interactions will be," Shinn said, but added that friends and other teens might tell the partygoers that it will "make you feel really good."
Faith Alarcio, a prevention specialist with the coalition, added that teens look in trash containers near or at elderly homes or similar facilities for prescription drugs.
She recommended that people dispose of their medications at "take-back" programs instead of trash cans where someone can get a hold of them.
Park added that parents should keep their medications in a safe place and to check their medicine bottles to make sure all the right quantities are there.
On Tuesday, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii announced that it recently took in more than 45 pounds of expired or unused prescription drugs at its Lahaina, Kihei, Wailuku and Maui Lani clinics during a drug take-back initiative held in partnership with the state Narcotics Enforcement Division and state Department of the Attorney General.
"Kaiser Permanente initiated this prescription drug take-back program to help curb the growing rates of prescription drug use and poison-related deaths related to unused medication in the household," said Barbara Kashiwabara, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii's senior director of pharmaceutical services. "Many people also don't realize that improperly disposing of unwanted medications - flushing them down toilets or throwing them in the trash - contributes to water and land contamination. So, in addition to the environmental benefits, we're hopeful that this initiative also serves an educational purpose."
Statewide, the Kaiser program took in more than 100 pounds of unwanted prescription drugs.
Maui police will conduct a drug take-back program in September. Those wanting to dispose of unused and outdated medication can call police at 244-6400.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.