TYSA Launches “IN OUR BACKYARD”: A Virtual Campaign Bringing Awareness to Opioid Usage In Communities of Color

There is misinformation around the types of people that opioid use is impacting on Staten Island with the majority of focus on white, middle class, suburban residents despite rates of use and overdose among Black and Brown people and North Shore neighborhoods. TYSA aims to bring attention to the actual state of opioid use and overdose among communities of color, and build the capacity of local providers and clinicians to better prevent and treat opioid and other illicit drug use among communities of color on Staten Island.


During this time of stress and uncertainty, it is essential that Staten Islanders have access to substance use and mental health services and supports. The TYSA coalition is committed to supporting all its partners and the community in navigating our complex behavioral health system in this time of crisis. This page will be updated every few days to make sure the information is as useful as possible.

If you’re interested in volunteering with TYSA virtually, contact Jazmin at jazmin@sipcw.org. We will be holding regular virtual workgroup meetings, webinars, and community workshops over the coming weeks.

Mental health and substance use treatment services

Looking for a licensed mental health or substance use treatment provider? Telehealth allows you to access traditional healthcare without going into the clinic. Many Staten Island organizations are offering telehealth services that can connect with you even if you’re stuck at home. Please visit our resource page for phone numbers and website.


If you’re in crisis or need immediate support, use these hotlines:

  • Richmond University Medical Center: 718-818-6300
  • NYC Well: 1-888-692-9355 OR text 65173
  • RUMC Mobile Outreach: 718-818-6900
  • NYS Free Emotional Support Hotline: Thousands of therapists have signed up to offer free emotional support to New Yorkers who are struggling with the mental health impact of this pandemic. Call the state’s hotline at 1-844-863-9314 to get free emotional support, consultations and referrals to a provider.

If you are interested in talking to a peer:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness: Call 800-950-6264 or text NAMI to 741741

Online Support Groups

Virtual support groups for people using or recovering from substance use 



Groups for family members or loved ones

SMART Recovery for Family & Friends (www.smartrecovery.org)

Parents Resources

Now more than ever, parents should be talking to your children. With many schools and daycares closed, we are spending a lot more time together at home. Add in the stress of concern over this virus, and many adults and children may be feeling anxious.

Hotlines for support if your child has a substance use disorder:

  • Center for Addiction: 1855-378-4373 OR text 55753

General Guidelines for talking to your children about COVID-19 (National Association of School Psychologists)

  • Remain calm and reassuring
  • Make yourself available
  • Avoid excessive blaming
  • Monitor television viewing and social media
  • Maintain a normal routine to the extent possible
  • Be honest and accurate
  • Know the symptoms of COVID-19
  • Review and model basic hygiene and healthy lifestyle practices for protection
  • Discuss new rules or practices at school
  • Communicate with your school
  • Take time to talk with each other

Just Talk – Parents You Matter

Interested in a workshop to build your skills to communicate with your child, recognize changes in behavior, and find community resources for behavioral health? We offer our Just Talk – PYM virtually. Reach out to Abby at abigail@sipcw.org for more information.

Social Emotional Learning in the Home

In stressful times like these, it is important we maintain the social and emotional needs of our children. There are a number of resources available to support parents and educators in discussing the virus with their child, learning from home, and fun activities to do while inside.

Resources for People of Color

There are many resources for people of color during this time of crisis. Click here to visit NAMI for a list of resources.

Call the BlackLine for support: 1-800-604-5841

LGBTQ+ Resources

The NYC Unity Project provides a comprehensive catalog of mental and physical health, social, and legal aid resources. Visit their website to learn more about LGBTQ programs and services that are available citywide.

Community Resources

Feeling stressed or anxious during this time? Need to find a behavioral health provider? Check out some of our social media campaigns on maintaining positive behavioral health for yourself and your loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19: Access to Services & Social Distancing

Resources for Parents during COVID-19 Pandemic

Beat the COVID Blues & Suicide Prevention

About TYSA

Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) is a coalition of people and organizations who have come together with a mission to decrease youth and young adult substance misuse on Staten Island. The coalition focuses all of its members on using their resources to help one another, and the whole community, combat substance misuse.

Contact TYSA

444 St. Marks Place
3rd Floor
Staten Island, NY 10301

Main Line: (718) 226-0258

For Media Inquiries:
Iris Kelly
(718) 226-0258

TYSA is a Proud Member

TYSA Launches “IN OUR BACKYARD”: A Virtual Campaign Bringing Awareness to Opioid Usage In Communities of Color

Over the past 10 years on SI and nationally, opioids (starting with prescription narcotics and moving into heroin) have become a growing concern. A large infusion of attention and consequently funding has come into the local community from the federal, state, city and local level to combat opioids. However, there are critiques of the current energy around opioids given that the heroin epidemic of the 70’s and 80’s, which primarily impacted black and low income communities, received little attention and almost no funding or compassion. Additionally, there is misinformation around the types of people that opioid use is impacting on Staten Island with the majority of focus on white, middle class, suburban residents despite rates of use and overdose among Black and Brown people and North Shore neighborhoods. 

TYSA aims to bring attention to the actual state of opioid use and overdose among communities of color, and build the capacity of local providers and clinicians to better prevent and treat opioid and other illicit drug use among communities of color on Staten Island.

On Wednesday, October 28th, at 6:00 PM, join TYSA as they officially launch a virtual “In Our Backyard” Campaign to bring awareness to the use of opioid and other drugs and its impacts on Staten Island communities of color. This Facebook Live event will feature guest speakers from CHASI, Project Hospitality, PAIGE ONE ASSIST, and the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office who will provide a history on delivering culturally relevant behavioral health services. The event will also feature a PSA created by TYSA youth consultants, and an opportunity for Q&A. This will kick-off a series of strategies that will increase awareness and build capacity of partners. Any person interested in attending must register here: [https://www.eventbrite.com/e/in-our-backyard-campaign-launch-tickets-125528409853]

For more information contact Abigail Batista at abigail@sipcw.org or 718-226-0257.

Guest speakers will include:

Ericker Onaga is the Chief Program Officer at Community Health Action of Staten Island (CHASI), a division of Sun River Health Care. In this role, Ms. Onaga oversees their complete portfolio of outreach, education, prevention and direct support services for populations most affected by health disparities – the poor and working poor, low income people with chronic illnesses, persons with criminal justice involvement, substance users, domestic violence survivors, people of color and the LGBTQ community. Ms. Onaga has a wealth of experience on issues faced by low-income individuals with HIV/AIDS, behavioral health disorders, housing instability, and food insecurity.

Raymond Jordan is a Peer Specialist who has worked for Project Hospitality for almost 2 years. He works in the Staten Island community to help with the opioid crisis and drug epidemic that has taken the lives of those that were really close to him. This work is very personal to him, as someone who has lived with the disease of addiction and who recently celebrated 3 years clean and away from drugs.

Lee Garr has worked in human services as an administrator, advocate, case manager and classroom instructor in the New York City area with individuals, adults, children and families for over 20 years. Currently, Lee serves as the Vice President of Community-Based Programs at Community Health Action of Staten Island. Previously, Lee served as Director of Programs at Amida Care, Assistant Director of Health Homes at CAMBA and was an adjunct professor at LaGuardia Community College. Lee holds a MA degree in Counseling from Manhattan College and is completing his full CASAC certification.

Debbie-Ann Paige is a public historian specializing in local African American history and a professional genealogist. She is the founder of PAIGE ONE ASSIST, a client-centered legacy research company focused on prompt, professional commitment to service. She is a newly appointed member of the New York City Council task force created to examine monuments, statues, public art and historical markers on city-owned property. She is also a senior policy analyst with the Council of State Governments working with state policymakers and key stakeholders on issues relevant to veterans, communities of color and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Upon taking office in 2016, District Attorney Michael McMahon made it a priority to transform the Richmond County DA’s Office (RCDA) into a modern prosecutor’s office focused on precision prosecution, problem-solving crime prevention, and bridge building between law enforcement and the communities it protects. McMahon has utilized his broad and deep experience in law and public service to implement and pursue the issues he promised Staten Islanders to address. He has successfully attacked the Island’s criminal justice issues: From the opioid epidemic to traditional street crime and gun violence, and from domestic violence to economic crime. McMahon continues to work with partners in law enforcement, especially our police officers and detectives, to drive down crime numbers and keep Staten Islanders safe.

TYSA Recreational Marijuana Statement

TYSA Recreational Marijuana Statement

Despite various prevention efforts and data demonstrating negative social and physiological impacts, recreational marijuana legalization is in motion in New York State. In the fall of 2018, the state hosted a series of community listening sessions. TYSA, a coalition of over 50 different partners on Staten Island working to reduce youth and young adult substance use, provided testimony urging NYS to create a system of oversight that minimizes youth exposure, makes proportionate investments in prevention, treatment and recovery, and allows local jurisdictions the ability to regulate price, promotion and availability of marijuana.

Impact of the Issue

TYSA opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana due to its negative effects on the developing brain and its ability to hinder motivation and academic achievement among youth.

In other localities that have legalized marijuana such as Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C.- reported marijuana use in the past month has increased among youth aged 12-17. On Staten Island, we’ve seen increases in marijuana use among our middle and high school aged students. Increased use among youth is troubling due to the impact it has on brain development. In a recent study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry*, researchers observed lasting effects of adolescent marijuana use on important cognitive functions that appear to be more pronounced than those observed for alcohol. Increased use has also resulted in an uptick in admissions to treatment programs and an observed increase in hospitalizations among youth who are vaping marijuana wax which has higher levels of THC. Youth marijuana use has also impacted our local education system, where schools are struggling to find ways to address the influx of students attending class under the influence.

Research shows that perception of harms and consequences is a driving factor in whether youth will use substances. The legalization of recreational marijuana further erodes the perception of harms and consequences for both youth and adults.  The percent of adults that believe that marijuana use among youth is acceptable has increased since 2012. If trusted adults in the community are sending the message that youth use is okay and young people do not perceive marijuana as dangerous, consumption rates will go up. Young people deserve to reach their full potential. The longer we can delay initiation and regular use, the less likely that a dependence or addiction will develop.

NYS must take lessons learned from the alcohol and tobacco industries, which pose a tremendous burden to the public health system and have a long history of targeting youth as the next generation of consumers.

Prevention Strategy Recommendations

  • Accurately educate youth and adults on marijuana
  • Guide adults in safely securing their marijuana
  • Provide talking points for adults to have factual conversations around the harms of marijuana use

Regulatory Recommendations

  • Regulate marijuana advertising, both in content and placement, with advertising restrictions around schools, churches and on public transportation
  • Require that all businesses selling marijuana for recreational use undergo a rigorous licensing process to be overseen by a government agency
  • Set the minimum age to purchase recreational marijuana to 25 to further reduce youth exposure and to delay initiation of use
  • Establish guidelines in retailer density especially in lower socio-economic neighborhoods.
  • Allocate a proportionate percentage of these revenues to prevention, treatment and recovery services to ensure supports are in place to accommodate the increase in use among youth and adults
  • Allow jurisdictions the ability to have some control over the regulation of the marijuana market without penalty

Local communities are often the most successful at surfacing issues and developing targeted strategies and policies and therefore should have the ability to have a say in how marijuana is priced and regulated, unlike alcohol, which is regulated at the state level. We should look for lessons learned from other states that have embarked on marijuana regulation on how to effectively and appropriately manage a substance that has documented negative outcomes on youth. The more proactive we can be in regulating markets such as marijuana, alcohol and tobacco, the better the odds our youth have of getting through their formative years without developing a dependence on substances.

* Morin, J. F. G., Afzali, M. H., Bourque, J., Stewart, S. H., Séguin, J. R., O’Leary-Barrett, M., & Conrod, P. J. (2018). A Population-Based Analysis of the Relationship Between Substance Use and Adolescent Cognitive Development. American Journal of Psychiatry, appi-ajp.

SNAP Cuts Would Worsen Opioid Crisis

As a native Staten Islander, I am deeply concerned about proposals coming from Washington D.C. that take an axe to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and how cuts will affect people in our borough struggling with addiction.

In Staten Island, in New York more broadly, and across the country, millions are struggling with the realities of opioid addiction and the challenges of recovery. Since the start of the epidemic, policymakers and politicians in both parties, including Congressman Donovan, have come to recognize that substance use disorders are a public health issue and that recovery requires treatment. Yet as someone who works for people who have struggled with addiction, I know that ending addiction requires more than medicine and therapy. It also means rebuilding lives and ensuring recovery isn’t derailed by something as fundamental as a struggle to put food on the table.

That’s where the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps, comes in. As one of our nation’s most powerful and effective poverty-reduction programs, SNAP helps more than 2.9 million New Yorkers afford healthy meals and on Staten Island alone, SNAP helps over 1 in 10 residents with basic nutrition needs.. SNAP works by providing modest benefits to people with very limited means – about $1.49 per person per meal – but it is proven to help people get back on their feet faster.

Despite its effectiveness, the House Agriculture Committee has proposed cutting the program by more than $17 billion and diverting much of that money to a risky new scheme of ineffective training programs and unforgiving penalties in their version of the 2018 Farm Bill, the legislation that funds SNAP. For every meal the 2018 Farm Bill takes from the plates of those with little, it increases spending on bureaucracy. In fact, it increases administrative costs by $15 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The bill also makes sweeping and harmful changes to SNAP that would increase paperwork, waste taxpayer dollars, and reverse previous efforts to improve the program and reach those in need of food assistance. All of this is done without any evidence to support such a dramatic change to the program.

For New Yorkers struggling with addiction, the Farm Bill under consideration would mean new and higher barriers to recovery. That’s because many of the harsh rules and requirements will apply to people just finishing their treatment. Under its “one strike and you’re out” provision, someone who doesn’t prove every month that they work enough hours would be kicked off SNAP for an entire year, unless they get a job that meets the requirement or requalify through an exemption such as disability ( our government does not define chronic substance abuse disorder as a disability, even though it is a deadly disease); the second time, they would lose benefits for three years. Instead of planning for their future, people recovering from opioid addiction will be forced to navigate unnecessary red tape just so they can feed their families. Unfortunately, this could result in many falling through the cracks, losing food assistance, and risking a dangerous fall back into addiction.

This week at our Spring Brunch, we heard the testimony of a Staten Islander who has struggled with addiction and has now achieved more than twenty years of recovery and serves tirelessly the recovering community of Staten Island addicts and alcoholics with all his heart.  Elwood, like so many others, used  SNAP benefits to support him in the long road to recovery. It would have been a more treacherous road without SNAP benefits.

Putting those already struggling with our national health crisis, like Elwood, in further jeopardy isn’t kind, wise, or necessary. It’s a step backward in a devastating fight that has already cost our borough too many lives.

I have been impressed by Congressman Donovan’s commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic. His efforts to increase awareness and target the causes of addiction are critical, and I hope to work with him to make them successful.  I know that these efforts must include protecting SNAP.

To do this, I urge Rep. Donovan to reject the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill and any attempt to make drastic cuts and changes to SNAP. Those in recovery must have access to the resources they need rather than fear and worry about how they will feed themselves and their families. Our leaders must support policy changes to end this epidemic — not ones that make it worse, as cuts to SNAP would do.

Recovery from addiction is a long road, and we have a lot of work left to do to confront this epidemic head-on. We need dedicated leaders like Rep. Donovan to ensure we continue to place the lives of our family members struggling with addiction first and not let partisan efforts take us to a place of even more suffering.

*Rev. Terry Troia serves as President of Project Hospitality.