More than 400 Westchester students want to be part of the solution in fighting the opioid epidemic.
The county held a summit at the Westchester County Center on Monday, featuring a talk from BMX racer Tony Hoffman, a recovering heroin addict. Students from 37 schools took part in the day-long summit.
The opioid epidemic caused a 200 percent increase in fatalities in Westchester from 2010-2015. The goal of the Youth Summit was to bring together students and have them come up with ideas on how to fight the epidemic in their own schools and neighborhoods.
“Young people are dying,” County Executive Rob Astorino said. "This is serious business, and we need your help. Young people are on the front lines of this epidemic. You are eyewitnesses to what’s happening. You come from all walks of life, and all kinds of neighborhoods. That’s the kind of real-life experience we need if we are ever going to wrap our arms around this deadly situation.”
Hoffman started experimenting with more serious drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin, and later heroin and crystal meth. Hoffman’s drug addiction caused him to lose friends and family and he eventually became homeless. He was so desperate for drugs that he committed an armed robbery, landing him in prison for several years.
While in prison, Hoffman had a “spiritual awakening” and started to turn his life around. He set goals and embarked on a path that resulted in him becoming a BMX Elite pro who placed second in the 2016 World Championships and coached in the Rio Olympic Games that same year.
But even now and sober for more than 10 years, Hoffman said there are reminders of his past all around him.
“Every single day, the doorway wants to tempt me,” he said. “If you don’t walk through that door, you don’t have to worry about this.”
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