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Wednesday February 22, 2017 at 9:11am Age: 2 yrs
Category: High School, District


Remember the devastation of the H.I.V epidemic when it peaked in the early 1990’s? Death rates from drug overdose in 2014 reached the same devastating level, with 125 American lives lost each day. Of those, 78 lives were claimed by opioid overdose.


Opioid abuse is a national health crisis, and it affects every American community, urban or rural. In Orange County, 19 lives were lost to prescription opioid overdoses in 2014, compared to 8 in 2013. (This mortality data pertains strictly to prescription opioids.)


In the 2015-16 academic year, MVHS Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.) made a film titled “78” based largely on interviews with adults whose lives were vastly affected by substance abuse, beginning in adolescence. Among interviewees is a Minisink Valley bus driver who lost her son to an overdose. She is now working toward a counselor certification in alcoholism and substance abuse. Other content involves excerpts from essays students wrote in their English classes.  


“We created space in our curriculum for the entire student body to write anonymously about the impact of substance abuse on friends, family members, and their generation as a whole,” said Emily Rufino, English teacher and department chair. “It was an awakening to see our students grappling with these difficult issues and giving voice to their emotions through writing. Our young people recognize and feel the struggle; as their teachers, we gained so much from reading their perspectives.”


The students’ film, “78” (32-minutes long), will be screened on Thursday, March 9, at 7 p.m. in the high school media center and serve as a conversation starter for facilitated group discussions immediately after. The film project was funded in part by the Orange County Youth Bureau and the Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Council of Orange County. ADAC executive director, Jim Conklin, and Commissioner of Mental Health and Social Services, Darcie Miller, will be in attendance.  


“This event is designed to raise awareness and is an opportunity for the parent-community to join the conversation. The deadly abuse of prescription painkillers and other opioids is a staggering reality affecting all of us: our students, our families, our neighbors and our communities. We all need to understand what it means, and how we can help,” said Jerry Sander, faculty adviser for S.A.D.D, and student assistance counselor. 


With the help of Mrs. Rufino, “78” has been shown in all English classes.  


“When we viewed the film in English classes, some students were speechless; others were moved to tears; still others wanted to discuss and learn more about the personal stories presented in ‘78’,” Mrs. Rufino said. “Students and teachers alike were grateful for the honesty and thoughtfulness of the interviewees. Their personal stories reached students in a way that statistics often cannot. The power of “78” lies in its stark and authentic portrayal of how substance abuse impacts not only addicts but also the people who love them.”


S.A.D.D. president Shannon Feely and vice-president Nicholas Mikulski were both involved in the making of “78.”


“The collaborative work we put into the creation of this film—interviewing community members, doing voice-overs, and listening to each other’s ideas—all came together to form a touching and poignant awareness piece,” said Feely, a senior. “I am proud to showcase our hard work, and I hope that it helps the lives of affected youth and families around us.”


“This film has had a huge impact on the kids of our school, and I'm so excited to see it being presented to parents around the community,” said Mikulsi, a junior. “I hope that the film and the discussion will open the eyes of parents with younger kids to make sure this doesn't happen to them.”


Minisink’s S.A.D.D. has 20 active members. Additional activities this academic year have included running coffee houses to promote musical expression and posting positive messages on student lockers to help with the winter blues. 


“Minisink Talks About Opioids” is co-sponsored by S.A.D.D. and MVHS PTO. All parents and guardians of Minisink students are encouraged to attend and participate in the March 9 event.