In alignment with International Overdose Awareness Day, community members and advocates gathered to demand a forceful federal response to the prescription opioid and heroin crisis. The FED UP! rally, including a sober softball game and candlelight vigil at Mount Loretto, took place yesterday and was hosted by Carl’s House, Dynamic Youth Community and many local organizations including the Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) coalition.
The Staten Island rally was among dozens that were scheduled to occur in cities and towns across the United States coordinated by FED UP!, a coalition of organizations from across the country representing hundreds of thousands of families and individuals affected by the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths.
The United States is in the midst of the worst drug addiction epidemic in its history. Since 1997, rates of opioid use disorder have increased more than 900%. The sharp increase has led to record high levels of overdose deaths. Staten Island suffered over 100 opioid overdose deaths in 2016 alone. Though community organizations and local elected officials have responded with comprehensive and innovative programs and services, there remains a need.
In addition to funding for substance use disorder treatment, community members also organized to raise awareness of the opioid issue in the local community. Staten Island has a high need for resources but is simultaneously uniquely poised to respond as a collective in times of tragedy. This rally served as both an avenue to speak out and an opportunity to celebrate the resilience of Staten Island.
The event also raised awareness about the damage opioids and heroin is doing to young adults in our communities and educated people about treatment options available to those who need help. “We at DYC are doing all we can to alert, educate, and treat this addiction,” said William A. Fusco, DYC Executive Director. “We are working with the media: radio, television, magazines- all to spread the work and help educate the public, to help prevent more devastation.”
Many advocates at the rally were people who have lost loved ones to heroin and prescription opioids. “Heroin and opioids have claimed many lives on Staten Island,” said Marco Di Donna, Carl’s House. “There are resources in the community to prevent more families from suffering devastating losses.”