The scourge of addiction -- and the rising threat of heroin use -- will be the focus of a pair of programs next week on Long Island.
A free event in Huntington -- F.I.S.T Presents: United for Hope -- will be dedicated to advocating, educating and uniting the community about substance abuse. The event is Wednesday at St. Patrick's Church, 400 Main St.
"Our mission is to help families that struggle with a loved one's addiction or with the loss of a loved one to addiction," said Anthony Rizzuto, executive director and founder of F.I.S.T, which stands for Families in Support of Treatment. "Addiction affects all of us . . . " Rizzuto said. "I really see this as a 'we' problem, and it requires a 'we' solution."
The day before that forum, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Nassau University Medical Center are inviting parents, friends and family, and addicts to a Hope & Help Heroin Recovery Resource & Referral Program at the hospital on Tuesday, from 7 to 9 p.m. Professionals from various drug counseling and recovery groups will be available, and attendees can hear testimonies from recovering addicts and health professionals, and receive information.
There were 137 fatal heroin overdoses recorded on Long Island last year, and more than 8,200 people die of heroin overdoses in the United States each year, with nearly twice that dying annually from prescription opioid pain pills, federal data show.
F.I.S.T. is a not-for-profit organization founded to advocate for families and promote treatment on demand.
The group's evening is to kick off with a resource fair at 6:30 p.m. The program at 7:30 p.m. will feature guest speakers, information on prevention and treatment as well as advocacy. A candlelight vigil will be held at the end of the program.
Partnering in the event are the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Huntington Drug and Alcohol Counseling Center, the Life Center, Huntington Hospital and Family Service League along with local coalitions, school-based professionals and faith-based organizations.
Kim Revere, president of Kings Park in the kNOw, which was founded in 2007 when parents noticed an increase in drug activity, said she encourages everyone to attend.
"People need to come to this event because this is a problem that is here to stay unless we educate ourselves," said Revere, whose son had been to rehab nine times with an opiate addiction, but is now 10 months clean. "Once people are educated to addiction everything else just follows suit, and the healing can begin."
Nassau's program will be held in the ground floor auditorium of NUMC, at 2201 Hempstead Tpke. in East Meadow.
"We hope that residents take advantage of this free and educational Heroin Recovery Resource & Referral Program," said Murray. "Together, we can beat heroin."