It’s a growing issues that will require attention from all stakeholders and community members.
On Tuesday’s edition of the Inside the FLX podcast Petrea Rae, Coalition Coordinator for the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Ontario County, as well as Tanya Lombardo, an intern for the organization from Keuka College joined Josh Durso to talk about their efforts combating substance abuse in the Finger Lakes.
Specifically, the organization works in Ontario County — raising awareness and educating communities on substance abuse.
“We’ve seen incredible growth with our drop boxes and mobile drop events,” Rae explained. The Coalition has tripled the number of drop boxes in Ontario County since July.
At that time there were only four in Ontario County. Now, there are 12 located throughout — with another location added in Rushville, which is located between Ontario and Yates counties.
The organization doesn’t just engage the community through drop boxes, or even mobile drop off days where law enforcement and the Partnership team up to collect old or unwanted drugs.
A series of support groups, roundtable discussions, and events branded as “Cafe’s” support the message they’re working to share with the community.
The duo is busy on a daily basis trying to reach people. “This is our third event today, and we still have a fourth tonight,” Rae explained during the interview.
Visiting schools — whether it’s a middle school, high school, or college — has become cornerstone of their efforts. “It’s important to reach young people,” Rae explained. “Figuring out how to engage the 18 to 25 audience is definitely one of the biggest challenges,” she added.
The Partnership is currently working on creating a campaign to address this issue. Addressing that young, college-aged audience is difficult — especially with the prevalence of addiction among that group.
“I hear students talk about using drugs. Those conversations happen regularly,” Lombardo explained. As a college intern she has been given the unique perspective of seeing and experiencing the fight firsthand from the Partnership’s perspective — while also still seeing the way students are engaged on the issue.
“Even students relying on a drug like Adderall at college is a problem,” Lombardo explained.
Rae added that the “gateway” effect alcohol and recreational drugs is real. While many don’t associate marijuana use or alcohol abuse with heroin addiction — she hears speakers at their events make the connection.
“We hear stories from those who have recovered from substance abuse, and they tell us that it started an ‘early’ or ‘young’ age with alcohol or marijuana,” she explained. “Frequently, they will say ‘I never thought I would become addicted to heroin’.”
The Partnership will continue reaching out to other organizations, businesses and those who are willing to take part in fighting substance abuse.
Among the easy ways for people to get involved is calling elected officials — letting them know that this problem is a priority. Rae said that members of the community who would like to work with the Partnership can also visit their website or check them out on Facebook to see what opportunities exist.
The Partnership is always looking for ways to expand their efforts.
One new campaign they’re considering now is a “bathroom campaign,” which they hope will engage young people. “Everyone goes into the bathroom,” Rae said talking about potential banners or flyers that could be up in the wall in bathrooms at local restaurants, bars, and businesses.
The Partnership is looking at other possible methods to engage the community, as they enter a busy spring schedule.