BY ERIKA NORTON

As part of their “Connect 2 Disconnect” campaign to combat the growing heroin and opioid crisis in the county, the Orange County District Attorney's office has released a new brochure geared to children, with ways they can recognize addiction in their friends and what to do if they suspect a friend needs help.

Previously, literature from the campaign has been geared toward educating parents about ways to keep their children away from opioids. The newly released brochure, on the other hand, specifically provides children with a list of eight signs that a friend might be abusing or addicted to opiates.

It also provides some strategies for children to use in talking with friends who might be addicted, in order to help their friends stay away from opioids in the first place, or to urge them to seek help if they are already addicted. Contact information for resources that children might use to seek help for opioid abuse or addiction is also in the brochure.

“We’re all in this opiate crisis together, and it is important for all of us, parent, child, educator, public official, to step up and do whatever we can to stop the epidemic,” Hoovler said in a statement. “‘Connect 2 Disconnect’ is designed to bring our citizens important information that they can use to do that.

“Our new release is directly targeted at children, who often relate better with each other than they do with their parents,” he continued. “Getting this valuable information into the hands of children, who might have friends struggling with opiate abuse or addiction, is critical. Having this information might just allow a child to save someone’s life.”

The “Connect 2 Disconnect” campaign gets its name from the goal to help parents connect with their kids to break the connection between prescription drugs and heroin.

Opioid crisis In 2014, three times more Orange County residents died from heroin or pain medication overdoses than in any other county in New York State, according to a state comptroller’s office report.

It’s not just New York State dealing with the heroin and opioid crisis; others are as well. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement in June.

New statistics from President Trump’s commission on combating the opioid crisis, led by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey released last week, also paint a grim picture. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose, with drug overdoses now killing more Americans than guns and car crashes combined.

In 2015, nearly two-thirds of drug overdoses were linked to opioids like Percocet, OxyContin, heroin and fentanyl, according to the commission’s latest report. In that same year, the amount of opioids prescribed in the U.S. was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks.

With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, a death toll equal to Sept. 11 every three weeks, Gov. Chris Christie and the committee recommended that the president declare a national emergency. A press conference with Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway addressed the seriousness of the national opioid epidemic, but the president has yet to declare a national emergency.

“No state has been spared and no demographic group has gone untouched,” Conway said at the press conference Tuesday. “This is not a problem of young or old, of black or white, of rural, urban or suburban. It really has affected all of our communities in varying degrees.”

Essential informationFor further information about the ‘Connect 2 Disconnect’ initiative, or to obtain copies of written materials, contact District Attorney Hoovler’s Special Projects and Community Affairs Bureau at (845) 615-3640 or by email at DACommunityAffairs@orangecountygov.com. Online materials for the initiative can be accessed at www.orangecountygov.com/Orange-County-District-Attorney--Connect-2-Disconnect-Heroin/Opioid-Awareness-Initiative.