PHOENIX – A diverse group of addiction specialists recently brought a message of HOPE (Heroin Opioid Prevention Education) to students in the Phoenix Central School District.
In an effort to educate students about the heroin epidemic sweeping the nation, law enforcement personnel and medical experts delivered presentations to middle school and high school students.
The students learned about addiction, the effects that drugs have on the brain, treatment options and the real-life consequences of opioid abuse.
For John C. Birdlebough High School alumna Savannah Jaquay, those consequences are all too familiar.
Jaquay shared the story of her best friend and fellow Phoenix graduate Tom Pokalsky, who died of a heroin overdose.
“Tom was one of the many faces of addiction, but it was not his identity,” Jaquay said. “He was charismatic and kind; but heroin knows no prejudice.”
Jaquay noted that she never thought she would encounter the loss of a friend due to drugs.
However, that is a reality that she faces every day, and a feeling that she hopes no other family has to experience.
By educating youth in the community, Jaquay and her HOPE colleagues aim to bring about awareness and change.
“The heroin epidemic will not win,” said Paul Riker, the clinical director of outpatient services at a behavioral health center. “It has not defeated us and it will not defeat us.”