A former heroin addict is taking steps to counter growing opioid and prescription painkiller abuse across Long Island with an organization he created that both educates adolescents and provides resources to addicts in need.
“We’re all members of a community, like, we all need to band together in order to stop this problem,” said Steven Dodge, 26. “Because one day — God forbid — it may be your kid.”
Dodge founded The SLATE Project in 2015, which stands for Saving Lives from Addiction through Treatment and Education. The nonprofit organization raises money through Dodge’s speaking commitments at local high schools and pumps it back into the community by providing resources to people who can’t afford treatment, such as by covering airfare for addicts or buying supplies for local treatment facilities. Donations made to SLATE can be used as a tax write-off, and schools that hire Dodge to speak are eligible for state aid reimbursement when the engagement is arranged through the Nassau BOCES Arts in Education Program.
Dodge is a member of Nassau County’s Heroin Task Force, spoke alongside Pam Starke of the NCPD’s Department of Community Affairs at East Rockaway High School in December as part of an informational panel and also came back to the school for Human Relations Day on Feb. 8 to talk about the SLATE Project.
“Steven is valuable asset to school districts and other organizations concerned with the impact of substance use and abuse on our youth,” said Kristen Mednick, a social worker at East Rockaway High School. “From his youthful appearance, the way he speaks, and the real and honest way he shares his story, he is relatable, and the students identify with him immediately.”
Mednick added that these attributes are essential in gaining the credibility and respect from the adolescent population that is often necessary to influence their behavior. “He is also an example of hope to youth struggling with addiction and offers traditional and non-traditional resources and support to individuals and families impacted by drugs and alcohol.”