The Bronx, New York, is the opioid epicenter of New York City with the highest overdose death rate. The Forward South Bronx Coalition aims to remind people of the true dangers of the opioid crisis by encouraging creative visual strategies from innovative youth.
“We want to re-expose the opioid epidemic, which has never gone away,” said Cedric McClester, Program Coordinator for the Forward South Bronx Coalition. “People think that it has died down, but it hasn’t. We challenged local schools to create a public service announcement to really get the word out.”
The local middle school created a video, acting out and reiterating the dangers of marijuana use. The high school created a powerful, brief PSA – moving a local Assemblyperson to ask for a copy to distribute and a local media outlet to feature it in an upcoming story.
“The connection of marijuana and alcohol to opioids is that they are gateway drugs,” said McClester. “Obviously, not every person who uses marijuana and/or alcohol is going to start abusing opioids, but most opioid addicts started with alcohol or marijuana.”
The students were recognized and honored at a Town Hall, receiving certificates for their work after a viewing of both videos. The Town Hall drew students, parents, coalition partners and community members from all around the 63,000-population community. The Town Hall, whose theme was Intervention & Recovery, unveiled the student’s videos, but also discussed the dangers of opioid abuse on the community and how Medically Assisted Treatment training can have a positive impact on substance use treatment.
The Town Hall covered diverse topics from prevention to recovery and the stages in between, representing a melting pot of interests, much like the coalition’s make-up. Sitting at the table alongside Forward South Bronx Coalition leaders and members are the local DA’s office, Council Members, Assemblypersons, and a State Senator.
“It’s about capacity-building, reaching out to those who can enhance your coalition’s work,” advises McClester. “We started as four and now we’re at 25 members in our coalition. You have to keep at it, it’s a long-distance run and every day you have to chip a little more.”