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Thursday March 16, 2017 at 1:16pm Age: 2 yrs
Category: High School, District


Fifty concerned individuals, brought together by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), gathered in the high school media center on March 9 for “Minisink Talks About Opioids.”


--“We have a problem!”

“A small group of us began speaking out loud about a problem that is all around us, threatening the integrity of our families and community. It is a menace of epidemic proportions. The same problem is presenting itself to all school districts in the county. I'm proud that we haven't shied away from anything and have taken the lead in bringing together prevention experts (from A.D.A.C.), students, parents, law enforcement, and adults in recovery, to start figuring out how to best help our students and our neighbors. I look forward to our next steps,” said Jerry Sander, faculty advisor for SADD, and MVHS/MVMS student assistance counselor.

--Students Take the Lead

The conversation starter for the event was the screening of “78,” a student-produced film based largely on interviews with three people whose lives were significantly impacted by heroin and alcohol abuse. Following the screening, SADD members divided themselves around five tables to help facilitate the conversation between participants.  


A day before the March 9 event, Minisink’s SADD president Shannon Feely, and vice president Nicholas Mikulski, accompanied by adviser Jerry Sander, were guests in the Frank Truatt Morning Show--WTBQ 93.5/ FM 1110 AM—with co-hosts Taylor Sterling and Neil Sinclair. They spoke about the making of “78” and the reason for the event.


“The fact that this initiative was directed by the concern and creativity of our students, made it that much more meaningful,” Mr. Sander said.


--At the Table

All three individuals who told their story in “78” joined the event. They were Renee Hustins, a Minisink Valley bus driver who lost her son to an opioid overdose; Mike Balles; and Jim Conklin, executive director of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Council (ADAC). Also present were Robert Conflitti, counsel to David Hoovler, Orange County’s district attorney, and Rachel Wilson, executive director of the Orange County Youth Bureau.


--Conversation Takeaways and Information Sharing 

  • Every one of the five discussion groups expressed the need for continued, multilateral involvement: schools, communities, prevention services, law enforcement, sources of information and referrals, and agencies such as ADAC.
  • Families and communities need to acknowledge, “We have a problem.”
  • Parents and educators: Learn to identify the signs of opioid/heroin use, such as changes in behaviors and activities, changes in friends, isolation, or always wearing long sleeves.   
  • Talk to your kids about opioid use. Seize every teachable moment.
  • Know your kids’ friends. Talk to them. Be present. Be a positive role model.
  • “Don’t ever think, ‘Not my kid.’” (Renee Hustins)
  • Every school in Orange County should be having this conversation, on an ongoing basis.
  • Student life is increasingly stressful. Students could benefit from learning stress-relieving skills in the classroom.
  • Schools need to do more to educate students on how to help a friend, and when it’s time to seek adult help.
  • Help fight the stigma associated with opioid addiction, so people are not afraid to ask for help.
  • Ostracizing a student or family struggling with substance abuse is dangerous.  
  • Only 1/3 of drug users are involved with the criminal justice system; the remaining 2/3 are not.
  • “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem. We have to help people too.” (Robert Conflitti)
  • Learn about Orange County District Attorney “Connect 2 Disconnect” Heroin/Opioid Awareness Initiative: Information to help parents connect with their kids and break the connection between prescription drugs and heroin.
  • Be aware of New York State’s Good Samaritan Law, protecting individuals who call 911 to report another person’s overdose.
  • Call ADAC confidential hotline for help: 845-294-9000. No personal, identifiable information is necessary. “We just want to talk to you and offer help. What’s happening with you? How can we help? That’s all we ask.” (Jim Conklin)
  • Students as young as 12 and 13 are being referred to agencies such as ADAC for opioid addiction. Data shows opioid use is starting at age 11.
  • Use all the tools in the box: prevention efforts; empowering youth to make healthy decisions; knowing where to find help. (Rachel Wilson)

An extensive list of community resources created by ADAC is available on the Parent Resources and Community Info pages of our website. It includes contact information for Critical Services, Self-Help Hotlines, Information and Referral agencies, Inpatient/Outpatient Treatment, Detoxification Services and Behavioral Health.