On Fri, Mar, 9, Family Central held a Warwick Coming Together-Community Conversation on the Opioid Epidemic. It was the first of its kind in our community and I want to thank the Albert Wisner Library and assistant director, Kathleen Georgalas for making this event possible.
This program was created to provide an opportunity for families, concerned citizens, civic leaders, clergy, town officials, school leaders, and healthcare professionals to gain an understanding of the real nature of the epidemic and what we might do collectively to strengthen our resolve to deal with it. A big thank you to the residents of Warwick and surrounding communities, who gave up their Friday night to participate in this special program.
We were blessed with unique and highly qualified speakers who spoke to the complexity of this health issue: the impact it has on individuals, families, and the overall community.
A special thank you to:
- The parents who shared their horrific story and their warning to other parents of how easy it is to miss the signs of heroin addiction. As a preventive measure two books were highly recommended for parents of middle and high school students: Tweak by Nic Sheff and/or Thin Wire by Christine Lewry.
- Matt Covell (a person in long-term recovery), who shared his personal story with heroin and his work with Friends of Recovery-NY, which actively seeks to advance public policies and practices that promote and support recovery.
- Anita Volpe of St. Anthony Community Hospital and Sophie Crawford-Rosso of Bon Secours Community Hospital for their information about the hospitals approach to helping those addicted to opioids, their New Directions treatment program, and pain education policy.
- Dean Scher, CEO and Martin Colavito of Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange & Sullivan County who emphasized the power of prevention and the need for communities to work to reduce the stigma associated with the disease of addiction so more families will come out of the shadows to seek help.
- Ruth Bowles, Executive Director of Rockland Council on Alcoholism and other Drug Dependence and Warwick resident for stressing the importance of family support services and engagement with legislative and policy leaders to obtain the funding needed to combat the opioid epidemic.
- Lauren Savino, and AnneMarie VanOrden of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Council of Orange County (ADAC) for identifying prevention, education, and recovery support services and where to obtain Narcan (overdose reversal spray) at no cost.
- Anthony Curti, Assistant District Attorney, Orange County for explaining the three-prong approach (law enforcement, better education, and treatment on demand) used to deal with the drug problem, the role of the Drug Treatment Courts in helping non-violent addicted offenders, and the Good Samaritan Law that allows people to call 911 without fear of arrest if they are having a drug or alcohol overdose that requires emergency medical care or if they witness someone overdosing.
- Michael Moon of the Town of Warwick Police Dept. for sharing his experience as a narcotics enforcement officer dealing first hand at all levels of this problem. It was heartening to hear that law enforcement’s approach is more often one of encouraging a non-violent substance abuse disorder to get help.
- Julio Fernandez of the National Guard, and Warwick Valley Prevention Coalition member, for sharing his expertise on the use of Narcan and explaining why in some cases it may be necessary to use more than one application to save the life of someone who has overdosed.
Members of the audience were given the opportunity to share their concerns about the heroin epidemic and what they’d like to see happen here in Warwick. How to best protect our children, how to fill the gap in services for those choosing recovery, and the stigma of addiction were three big concerns. High on the list of things people want to see happen are: more information and education to help the community understand the magnitude of the problem, support groups for families impacted by the disease, prevention training for parents and children, and improved access to treatment for those seeking help.
Annie Colonna, Director of the Warwick Valley Prevention Coalition, spoke about the important work of the coalition, her partnership with the school district and her connection with other agencies in the area. She conveyed her eagerness to begin working with others to address many of the questions and concerns raised during Friday’s panel discussion. The Warwick Coalition meets the fourth Thursday of each month at the Warwick Valley Community Center, located at 11 Hamilton Ave. in Warwick, and is in need of new members. The next meeting is scheduled for Thurs., Mar. 22 at 6:30 p.m.
For additional information, films, articles, and books about the Opioid Crisis visit the Family CentralNY website – www.familycentralny.wordpress.com, and click on Community Focus. Scroll down to Looking at Our Opioid Crisis to see Helpful Resources.