A non-denominational forum followed by a candlelight vigil is set for Huntington Friday as a partnership of organizations dedicated to addressing drug addiction in the region gathers to pay tribute to the fallen, and raise awareness in the general population.
The evening begins at 7 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church on Main Street with speakers and informational tables. Steve Chassman and Jeff Reynolds, from the Long Island Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, and Anthony Rizzuto from the Seafield Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment, lead off.
Susan Roethel, founder/president of The Fallen and mother of Megan Roethel, a young Huntington woman who died in May of this year, reportedly from a heroin overdose, will tell her daughter’s story. Also planned is a speaker who has overcome heroin addiction.
Ending the night, there will be a candle light vigil sidewalk march through the Village to Town Hall to commemorate those who have fallen due to heroin overdose.
“This is a partnership among a lot of organizations to raise awareness about addiction across Suffolk County,” Reynolds said. “A real coming together, and I think most importantly, a rallying cry for change in the community. The problem has grown exponentially over time. It hasn’t been solved and the overdose problems grow day by day.”
At issue is an alarming rise in the use of prescription drugs and heroin in the region, which has claimed the lives of a number of residents. According to the website for The Fallen, there has been a 52% increase in prescription drug and heroin related deaths from 98 in 2010 to 149 in 2011 (in addition to 149 determined to have died from prescription opiates or heroin, another 310 residents reportedly had these opiates in their system at the time of their deaths.)
“There has been an advent of prescription painkillers which are highly addictive, readily available on the street, and likely to produce overdoses,” Reynolds said. “But they’re also expensive, and young people get priced out of the market. Heroin, being cheaper, is just a hop skip and a jump away. When you think of heroin use, you might think of the junkie wandering around in the lower East Side, not the perky cheerleader at a local high school. But that's who it is on Long Island. A lot of these kids say they never bargained for this.”
Anyone who wants to learn more about the prescription drug and heroin epidemic on Long Island is welcome to come. There will be tables set up from 30 different organizations from all over Long Island who specialize in chemical dependency treatment and recovery.