FIST to address youth overdose epidemic at OLA forum

October 16, 2013 Denise Romano
Share this:

In hopes of raising awareness of the skyrocketing increase in drug-related deaths among youths in Southwest Brooklyn and Staten Island, Families in Support of Treatment (FIST) is hosting a forum at Our Lady of Angels on Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m.

Anthony Rizzuto, chair of FIST and a provider relations specialist at Seafield Center, a rehabilitation facility located on Long Island, told this paper that the forum will address the “alarming rate of increase” of prescription drug and heroin use by getting individuals and families in touch with over 65 organizations that can provide help.

“We raise awareness in the community and let them know the severity of the epidemic. We connect resources with the people that need them,” Rizzuto explained. “The open forum focuses on improving people’s access to treatment.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, drug-related fatalities among teens aged 15 to 19 increased over 90 percent between 2000 and 2009. In Staten Island, prescription drug and heroin use has increased 440 percent over the past few years. Here in Bay Ridge, at least a dozen youths between the ages of 18 and 24 have died due to an overdose since the beginning of 2012.

“Access to treatment is a big thing,” Rizzuto stressed, noting that the group will provide, “All these different resources in one location, such as long term residential treatment, outpatient facilities, Alcoholic Anonymous, interventionists, housing, all different kinds of things that addicted individuals and family members would need and benefit from.”

Rizzuto said another way to address the issue is to “identify one big problem,” which in many cases he says is due to health benefits and insurance policies.

“Say their [an addicted individual’s] policy allowed them 30 days in rehab per year and seven days a year in outpatient [treatment],” he explained. “But when they try to access those benefits, they can’t. In many cases, insurance companies say they don’t meet necessity or they need to fail as an outpatient first [in order to be admitted to rehab]. Many of these people end up dying.

“Ultimately, we are trying to get legislation passed to take the decision out of the hands of insurance companies and into the hands of health care professionals,” Rizzuto went on. “In other cases, the client is put on Medicaid and the state ends up picking up the cost. Either way, the insurance companies get away scot-free.”

Besides these resources, an overview of the current epidemic, barriers to treatment, testimonials from family members, information on treatment options, stories of recovery, strategies for drug prevention, and drug use signs and symptoms will also be addressed at the forum.

State Senator Marty Golden and Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz will also be on hand, along with Hilary Kunins, MD, assistant commissioner for the city Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention, Care and Treatment division.

For more information, call Rizzuto at 516-316-6387 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment