Oceanside Community comes together on International Overdose Awareness Day


It was an evening of remembrance on the Schoolhouse Green as members of the Oceanside community gathered on International Overdose Awareness day Sept. 1 to commemorate those who have lost their lives to drug addiction.
Dee’s Nursery & Florist provided purple flowers, which were planted by Oceanside Community Warriors to commemorate the lives lost to overdose. This was the first official event for Overdose Awareness Day led by the Oceanside Safe Coalition, whose mission is preventing drug and alcohol use among young people and thus creating a drug-free community.
Oceanside has been deeply affected by loss from overdoses, particularly among young people. This brought about the formation of the Oceanside Safe Coalition. Oceanside Library Trustee and Oceanside Safe member Janet Pearsall spoke on how the effects of overdosing in the community led to Oceanside Safe. “Sadly, there was a rather long string of overdosing in young people, not only overdosing but fatally overdosing,” Pearsall said. “Primarily, that was the beginning of the big opioid epidemic, and from that sprung out Oceanside Safe and then all the opioid training.”
The project coordinator for the Oceanside Safe Coalition, Alison Eriksen, spoke more about the formation of Oceanside Safe. “We put together the Oceanside Safe Coalition in 2015, and it was in response to a slew of overdoses in our younger population, many of whom I graduated high school with,’’ Eriksen said. “Over the last 10 years alone, we’ve lost about 15 people that we went to school with. We kept hearing about someone losing their life, with what felt like almost once a week. We came together as a community; we figured we had to do something and formed our coalition.”
Eriksen continued, “Addiction is deep-rooted, and that is the message that we’re trying to put out there. We’re geared towards education and prevention. We put together environmental strategies trying to involve the whole community.”

As overdose and addiction are possible with many substances, not just opioids and prescription medications, Oceanside Safe is focused on combating underage drinking and marijuana use, which group leaders have found through data research are some of the most abused substances and are known as gateways to harder drugs.
As a part of the effort to educate and raise awareness on overdosing and opioid training, Town of Hemsptead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito delivered a Narcan training on the Schoolhouse Green. Free Narcan kits were given to all who registered for the training. Narcan stops an opioid overdose. The training sessions help to educate the community and prepare people if an overdose were to occur.
“The idea is to spread awareness,” Pearsall said. “Parents need to be aware of what their children are doing. Don’t assume nothing is happening because you don’t see it.”
Oceanside Safe aims to change the social norms and stigmas that go with addiction and being a parent with a child going through addiction. Sarah Dowler, of the Oceanside School District, is the coalition’s chair and helped put together the organization in 2015. She said she believes eliminating the stigma of overdose is a key factor in preventing it. “There’s such a stigma attached to it, families can be ashamed. But it’s a disease that we’re fighting in this country, and that’s what we want to show – that there is no stigma,” Dowler said.
She continued to support the importance of youth prevention, saying, “We have to educate. We know that brain development has a huge impact on addiction. The younger kids are, the more likely they are to become addicted, so delaying onset is important.”
Dowler continued, “We can’t leave it as a personal decision to a kid. Businesses can’t sell to minors, parents can’t host underage drinking parties, and we have to educate.”