Oceanside to work together to overcome drug overdose


A day for planting flowers, educating and creating a safe space for those who have lost their loved ones; that is what the Oceanside Safe Coalition hopes for with their second annual event being held in participation of International Overdose Awareness Day.

Oceanside Safe, alongside Kiwanis and a few of their sponsors, will be gathering at School House Green on Thursday, August 25, to allow attending community members to commemorate the lives of those lost to overdose with the planting of purple flowers. From 6 to 8 p.m., members of the community are asked to come together to learn more about how to prevent overdose and to even receive free Narcan training.

“We really wanted to make sure that we came together, not only to support friends and family who lost loved ones, but to really raise awareness about overdose,” said Alison Eriksen, the project coordinator of Oceanside SAFE. “It’s a really important event for us for education purposes, while also highlighting and remembering everybody that we did lose in the community.”

The Oceanside SAFE. Coalition, whose mission is to prevent and reduce alcohol and drug use among youth, had formed in 2015 when they noticed there had been many overdoses that resulted in death in the community. Shortly after, Oceanside S.A.F.E (Substance Abuse Free Environment) formed to work toward better educating community members, parents and youth on substance abuse.

“Most of the people recognized in this memorial are going to be kids that graduated from Oceanside High School,” said Sara Dowler, coalition chair and Oceanside School District health teacher. “With an event like this, seeing that we have lost people that were just like their own children, parents will realize that overdose awareness starts with being educated at a young age. Knowing how to talk about this topic with your kids is a really important thing.”

While International Overdose Awareness Day falls on Aug. 31, Oceanside Safe wanted to have the event a week before, to not collide with the first day of school, and to make the event more accessible for the community in hopes that many members will be in attendance.

Following the planting ceremony, training on how to use Narcan, prescription medicine used for the emergency treatment of a narcotic overdose, will be provided by Seafield, a drug and alcohol detox facility in Long Island. Free kits will be given to everyone who participates in the training.

“Every single person should have this Narcan training. A lot of them are high school seniors that are going to college this year, to have Narcan in their dorm room or at a party would be a huge thing and could save a life,” said Dowler.

The Oceanside High School’s Youth Council, a club with a mission to educate on mental health, which includes substance abuse, will be in attendance and volunteering at the event. Other organizations of the community will also be showing their support in various ways, including Oceanside Warriors who will be helping to plant the flowers, that had been donated from Dee’s Nursery & Florist. Other prevention resources, such as Deterra Drug Deactivation bags, will be available for free due to the sponsors.

On the flyer, it is noted that the event is to remember those who have died to overdose without stigma. Eriksen said that it is important for communities to continue to educate themselves and become more aware of these topics that have traditionally been treated as taboo. With the increase of resources and opening lines of communication, she said it will allow people to get the help they need.

“The opioid epidemic has claimed so many lives across Nassau County and Long Island alone,” said Eriksen. “Having that resource and that availability to save lives and intervene when you can is just so incredible.”