In the wake of a tragic overdose that claimed the lives of two young Jerusalemites last week, Mayor Nir Barkat and the director of the Jerusalem Education Administration (MANCHI), Danny Bar-Giora, wrote an open letter to city students Monday, urging them to stay away from drugs over the long summer break.

The letter also requested that they report potential cases of depression among their friends to members of their school’s staff.

Sixteen-year-old Lee Vatkin and 21-year-old Rauf Zienelov were found lying lifeless inside a Nachlaot apartment last Monday by Vatkin’s father, who called police and Magen David Adom medics to the scene, where they were pronounced dead by an MDA doctor.

A tainted dosage of methadone – a drug often used to help recovering heroin addicts deal with their addictions – has been named by police as the drug suspected of leading to the two deaths, although the final toxicology results have yet to be released.

Nonetheless, Barkat and Bar-Giora’s letter said that although “the cause of death has not yet been definitively established... just the fact that a young girl was using drugs shook up all of us – her family and friends as well as city employees, city council members, administrators and educational and psychological workers.”

“So much is said and written about the terrible damage that can be caused by drug use,” the letter continued. “So many publications and educational programs through the media emphasize it, and yet again we are faced with the terrible reality of two young people who didn’t properly gauge the potential damage that could be caused to them, and who ultimately lost their lives.”

Mayor Barkat and Bar-Giora also urged pupils to see in their school’s staff “a real address” and a place to turn in case of hardships, difficulties, anxiety or pain.

“In any case of trouble, we are here to listen and extend our hand,” the letter read. “Principals, teachers and the psychological services are the right ones to turn to and can be a source of great help in times of difficulty.”

“This should not be thought of as tattling,” the letter read, “but a step that could help save lives.”
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