BY DYLAN BESTLER
(NEW CITY, NY- March 28, 2017) India Perez-Urbano founded Rockland Connects because of the growing opioid problem in not only Rockland County but in the United States. Overdose deaths have become the leading cause of accidental deaths.
India, who graduated from Nyack High School in 2012 and Harvard last May, spoke in front of the Legislature Tuesday night to talk about the opioid problem and her non-profit group,Rockland Connects. During her time at Harvard, India volunteered at AHOPE Boston Needle Exchange Program, a community organization that strove to improve the lives and protect the health of individuals who use drugs.
AHOPE opens its doors to the most marginalized people in Boston: the homeless, the poor, the addicted.
“I looked into the epidemic here in Rockland County and found that it’s really a growing crisis here and it’s something a lot of individuals are not talking about,” India said. “We are having a lot of people in our community who are dealing with this issue silently and within their own homes and so I decided to start this non-profit here.”
Rockland Connects targets individuals who are not connected to health care resources or support. Members of the non-profit team go to the Nyack Center every Monday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. In April, they will start educational series, where they will teach about different topics such as HIV, overdoses, recovery treatment and more.
Some statistics about the opioid epidemic according to Perez-Urbano’s research:
- There were 40 known overdoses in Rockland last year—a nine-fold increase since 2003 of known opioid overdoses
- 2014 study showed that at Nyack High School among 10th graders, the rate of self-reporting prescription drug use for non-medical purposes was 159 percent higher than the county average
- In the same study heroin use in Nyack was reportedly 133 percent higher than the county average, 200 percent higher than the national average
- In 2010-2014, there was a 113 percent increase in opioid related ER admissions in Rockland alone
“We are seeing a lot of our young citizens being hit by this opioid epidemic and it’s leading to a lot of health complications,” Perez-Urbano said.
She told legislators she would like to see the county issue an annual report of all opioid-related incidents from police departments, hospital records, pharmacies, etc. to help showcase the issue and help come up with a solution to resolve it. The legislators were very supportive of the idea and the new non-profit group.
Rockland Connects will host “Drug Take Back Day” on April 29 along with an Opioid Awareness Night in Suffern in May.