Opioid Addiction Awareness Event on Long Island Draws Record Crowds - April 26, 2017
More than 1,000 people gathered on Long Island last Wednesday at St. Anthony's High School in Huntington to discuss the severity of the opioid addiction epidemic and to try to find some solutions. The group included police officers, clergy, doctors, politicians, teachers, parents, counselors, and students, all of whom were asked to pledge their commitment to helping end the crisis.
Some people talked about how they lost loved ones to overdoses, and others were former addicts who spoke about how they recovered. Community leaders, including Reverend Gideon Pollack of St. John's Cold Spring Harbor and Superintendent Dr. Francesco Ianni from Harborfields Central School District highlighted how they are making an impact, and what the rest of the community can do help.
The first half of the evening was all about students making a commitment to end the epidemic by formulating a plan of action. After hearing from five student speakers addressing the approach, over 150 students from seven school districts pledged to learn about the addiction problem and inspire others to learn and take action. According to one of the former addicts, Bryan Fitzgerald, one way kids can avoid drug use is to focus on a hobby, sport, activity or passion. For example, he said he now spends a lot of time making videos, which is something he loves to do.
A group of students from Locust Valley actually focused on exactly that idea with the myhigh social media campaign! Jessica Bianco, a Locust Valley 9th grader, explained how kids can post videos of themselves on Instagram or on myhigh.org, showing themselves doing their favorite thing or just saying what their 'high' is. She went on to explain how by finding your 'high' through hobbies, there is no need to ever turn to drugs.
"We have better things to do," she said
Religious, educational and other leaders took the stage to speak of their commitments in response to the epidemic. Among them was Suffolk County Police Commissioner, Timothy Sini and members of the Long Island Covenant.
Long Island Communities, Associations and Neighborhoods (LICAN) organized the event, which drew more than double the number of people they expected. A follow-up meeting will be held in exactly six months on October 26th, to assess their progress towards their stated goals.