NEW CITY, N.Y. -- Hundreds of concerned citizens poured into the Paramount Country Club Tuesday night for a panel discussion titled, "The Perfect Storm: A Prescription Drug and Heroin Epidemic," put together by the Clarkstown Teachers’ Association in conjunction with the Clarkstown PTA.
The event, which featured Rockland County District Attorney Tom Zugibe and Clarkstown Chief of Police Michael Sullivan, among other high profile public figures, aimed to shed light on the, “boundless threat,” heroin poses to local communities and what must be done to stop it.
“In Rockland County, residents are more likely to die from a drug overdose than a traffic crash, statistically speaking. This must change,” Zugibe explained.
As soon as the event began, it became immediately apparent that Rockland County is a not a community unfamiliar with the detriments of drug abuse.
In a five-year time span alone, opiate addiction increased by 300 percent in Rockland County and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.
In 2014, Rockland County’s first-responders began carrying Narcan, a drug which reverses the effects of a heroin overdose. Despite this, overdoses continued to increase in 2015 resulting in the loss of 35 lives.
“Addiction is a disease and not a disgrace,” explained the mother of an addict who went only by the name Carol.
According to Carol, humanizing addiction is a necessary step in understanding the trauma addiction causes families and individuals alike.
Eighty percent of people who recently started to use heroin said they had previously used prescription painkillers illegally. It is for this reason that Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan implored the audience to take all steps necessary to keep pain medication out of the hands of children including preventative education on the dangers of recreational drug use.
Steven Hill, a recovered addict, offered hope by sharing his testimony of triumphing drug addiction through effective, long-term treatment.
Many local outreach groups such as the Rockland Council on Alcoholism & Other Drug Dependence were present at the event, a testament to the fact that recovery is possible not only for individuals, but for entire communities.
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