As the community gains awareness of use of heroin and synthetic opiates among teens, some leaders are starting to ask how they can help deal with the problem.
Dan Eudene, the executive director of the Riverdale Neighborhood House (RNH), explained his center recently received a $150,000 grant from the city to fund an afternoon program for middle-school students. He said that program will provide safe, alternative activities — one of the best methods for preventing drug abuse.
“The sooner you start, the better,” he said, explaining that middle school is a tough time. “That’s when we really lose them.”
Mr. Eudene said part of a recent Riverdale Press special report on teen drug use that mentioned many students disregard prevention programs struck a chord with him.
“Many moons ago, I was a student myself, and a lot of things offered in school as a student you kind of dismiss,” he said.
In his experience, Mr. Eudene said peer-led programs are more effective.
“Kids are going to listen a little more to a young person or someone who was recently a young person, rather than an adult,” he explained, describing a peer-to-peer HIV-prevention program he used to run.
Mr. Eudene continued that in some cases, a child might be predisposed to forming addiction. When that happens, professionals at places like the Riverdale Mental Health Association (RMHA) need to be vigilant and make sure addiction does not actually take place.
While RMHA provides in-reach mental health services at schools including the David A. Stein Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy (M.S./H.S. 141), where at least a handful of students were known to do heroin last school year, Mr. Eudene says his fellow non-profit deserves more funding.
For the broader population, Mr. Eudene said, it’s all about prevention.
“It’s boosting self-esteem, engaging them in healthy activities, so there is less of an inclination to turn to drugs,” he said.
Northwest Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, the former chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, said news of heroin use at RKA came as no surprise to him.
“Heroin use is on the rise again and no community is exempt. It’s not surprising that there is heroin use at RKA since it is happening everywhere,” Mr. Dinowitz wrote in an e-mail.