Target: Tina Wolf, Executive Director of the Community Action for Social Justice in Suffolk County, NY
Goal: Recognize community-based education initiatives to prevent drug overdose
The demographic for heroin use is changing. In the state of New York particularly, heroin and opioid use is no longer prevalent solely in poor, urban neighborhoods, but is increasingly used by young, white teenagers living in suburban areas. Better education and harm reduction is needed to counteract the increasing rate of heroin-related deaths across the country.
More than 200 people in Long Island’s Suffolk County, including some teens, died from overdoses in 2013, at least half of which involved heroin. Responding to this changing demographic, Tina Wolf drives herself to neighborhoods to make house calls, offering discreet and free trainings in overdose prevention to active opioid users and their friends and families. Her clients range from high school coaches, school nurses, and worried parents, all of whom receive a rescue kit with naloxone in the event that they must save their kids’ lives.
Drug treatment programs like Ms. Wolf’s are forward-thinking, working to keep the individual alive so he or she can actually participate in therapy. Ms. Wolf conducts educational workshops because people are put at risk if they combine opioids prescribed by doctors with other substances like Xanax or alcohol. Also, Ms. Wolf has even found that many people are still not fully aware of the risks of injection drug use and were surprised when she explained that they could contract HIV through sharing needles.
The legal complications surrounding naloxone make Ms. Wolf’s work extremely important. Access to such kits remains limited across the nation. States must pass specific laws to allow people other than doctors and paramedics to use them. Considering this challenge, Ms. Wolf’s expansion of access to the drug and to educational resources is truly helping to save lives and help people on their way to healing.
Dear Ms. Wolf,
I am writing to recognize your efforts to educate communities on how to prevent tragic drug overdoses. Adopting a strategy appropriate to the communities you help, and you have found a way to educate people on the risks of using these drugs and to help them on their way to recovery.
Thank you for also working to combat the stigma surrounding these communities. By training the families and friends of those using opioid drugs, you are not only expanding access to potentially life-saving rescue kits but also building a network of support and safety that can help facilitate healing more broadly. I wish you the best of luck in your efforts moving forward.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Head via Wikimedia Commons