Working in local communities to address addiction during a hard holiday season
Cities and states across our country, including here on Staten Island, are taking necessary precautions locking down and ordering people to quarantine as COVID numbers rise. In New York, we have already lost more than 24,000 to COVID, but there is another crisis taking lives in our community made even worse by the COVID pandemic – addiction.
This crisis has historically hit Staten Island worse than the rest of the city. As citywide overdose numbers improved slightly in 2018, Staten Island saw a 13% surge. That year there were 2,991 opioid-related deaths in New York – and a press release on June 1st of this year pointed to 86 suspected overdoses in the first five months of 2020 alone. This would be a 56% increase compared to the same time in 2019, and we can expect these numbers to rise as people struggling with addiction face challenges of isolation, loss of connection to normalcy, friends and family, and even their livelihoods, leading into the holiday season.
To help address this crisis, Partnership to End Addiction, a national nonprofit that engages and helps families impacted by addiction, with support from Facebook, is using technology to connect families and communities in the Staten Island area with the support and information they need to take vital first steps toward recovery. Partnership to End Addiction is able to help families impacted by addiction to identify quality treatment resources in their community. And through Crisis Support Over Facebook Messenger, Facebook connects people to support from the Partnership’s trained and caring bilingual addiction specialists. The support is free and confidential and helps parents and caregivers find answers for themselves and their children.
The addiction epidemic in New York has been going on for far too many years, which is why local communities need help and support to stop the stigma that holds so many people back from getting help. Last holiday, we focused on helping break down the stigma of addiction with the Stop Opioid Silence public awareness campaign that reached 70 million people via Facebook and Instagram. This year, our focus is on connecting people to the information they need to get help with the Start with Connection campaign. The isolation of COVID-19, coupled with the holidays, makes connecting using Facebook and Instagram even more important.
This holiday season, we encourage everyone to reach out to those who are alone. We know asking for help is a critical step in overcoming addiction. This is the heart of Partnership to End Addiction’s work, connecting people struggling with addiction to personalized support. That is why we are working closely with Facebook to connect people with the help they need, wherever they are.
As we prepare to celebrate the holiday season, New York residents can connect with those who need our support and encouragement. Visit www.drugfree.org/get-support-now/ to learn more or get help.
Marcia Lee Taylor is Chief External and Government Relations Officer at the Partnership to End Addiction and Will Castleberry is Vice President, State Policy and Community Engagement at Facebook.