Heroin discussion surrounds youth

Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series.

IRVING – The proliferation of heroin and opioids has overwhelmingly affected young people.

A forum on this problem was jointly hosted recently by the Seneca Nation of Indians’ Drug and Alcohol Abuse Task Force and the New York State Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction.

“Our children are our future,” SNI President Barry E. Snyder Sr. said.

Students from Lake Shore, Southwestern and Pioneer schools said hearing the message to stay away from drugs has more impact coming from other students or from those who have experienced addiction first hand.

Avi Israel, president of Save the Michaels of the World, who lost his son at the age of 20 after an opioid addiction, presented the panel with a teaching curriculum on the subject, which was developed by Blue Cross Blue Shield and WNED. BCBS also holds an annual three-month campaign on the issue.

“The driving factor behind this was not because I went down there and yelled. The fact is kids are dying,” he said. “Every day 2,000 kids take prescription pills. One hundred people die every day from drugs. … We need to make sure we do not lose the next generation – lose our future.”

Salamanca Mayor Carmen Vecchiarella said something must be done, there have been five deaths from overdoses in the city in just the past month and a half.

Silver Creek Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich said when parents ask how to keep their kids away from risky behavior, he first refers them to the school’s co-curricular activities. Other commenters said increased state support for local youth bureaus can also help kids stay off the streets.

Tribal Council Member from Allegany Territory Darlene Miller said parents need to be discouraged from allowing underage drinking and drug use.

Two Chautauqua Lake students said a program that has kept them above the influence and taught them a lot is 4-H.

Chautauqua Lake Superintendent Benjamin Spitzer suggested school resource officer programs should be equitable for every district, not just some. State Senator Patrick Gallivan said grants for SROs will soon be available.

SNI funds SROs in Silver Creek, Gowanda, Lake Shore and Salamanca school districts.

Young said the information gathered from the forum will be taken into account for legislation to target some of the problems associated with the increasing heroin and opioid problem.

Part I: State, Seneca Nation task forces hold panel on heroid addiction. Part II: Law enforcement weights in on heroin abuse problem. Comments on this series may be sent to ngugino@observertoday.com