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Town of Huntington and Northport Village turn purple for National Recovery Month


On the evening of Tuesday, August 31, from 7:30-9pm in Northport Village Park, the Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force (DATF) is hosting a “Night of Remembrance Candlelight Vigil” to honor those who have been lost to drug and alcohol-related overdose.

The vigil is meant to promote awareness about a growing opioid epidemic in Suffolk County, and the prevalence of alcohol abuse, in our towns and villages. It will take place on National Overdose Day, marking the beginning of an important month for the task force, as September is National Recovery Month.

The overdose death rate in Suffolk County is currently higher than the state average. According to the Department of Health, there were 304 opioid overdoses in Suffolk in 2020, 937 outpatient emergency room visits from opioid overdose, and 179 hospitalizations. There were also 348 Naloxone (Narcan) administration reports.

The Northport-East Northport DATF has been working in the community since 2006. “We are a coalition that draws on all sorts of different groups and community sectors to work collaboratively,” Cat Juliano, the group’s project coordinator, explained. “The school is one of our greatest partners, and so is the public library. We also work closely with local law enforcement and the Chamber of Commerce – we are moving and shaking with almost every area of the community.”

A lifelong Northport resident, Cat said she initially got involved with the DATF because she was interested in empowering youth to make safe and healthy choices. She began volunteering for the coalition in 2016, and was later hired to become its first youth coordinator. Cat developed a youth coalition that involves about 25 current Northport High School students engaging in peer-to-peer education on drug and alcohol use and prevention strategy, and is presently the project coordinator for the DATF.

“Our mission is to prevent and reduce drug and alcohol use among our youth,” Cat said. Task force members offer community events that are drug-free and family friendly, to counter what Cat describes as a big party culture locally.

“It’s a huge problem and really, the point of this all is to help our community members who have lost someone to know that they’re not alone. But also, to communicate to our other population of people who are still struggling, and to communicate that it’s okay to ask for help and there’s treatment available,” Cat said. She said there’s a large group of people within the Northport and East Northport areas that are currently in recovery, and that events by the task force are a way of saying “we see you, we support you and we celebrate you.”

Cat said that when preparing for Overdose Day and Recovery Month, the Town of Huntington Board and Northport Village Board were both very supportive. Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, in particular, has been an advocate for the DATF and the Opioid and Addiction Task Force, two groups that came together to honor Recovery Month with the help of Huntington resident Sharon Richmond, who lost her son to an overdose.

For the month of September, the task force was given permission to display purple ribbons at the base of each lamp post in Northport Village. Local businesses throughout the Town of Huntington were also invited to “turn purple” by installing purple light bulbs (given out by the task force) and hanging informative fliers meant to show support and build awareness for this important community mission. “A special thank you to Sharon, whose efforts to raise awareness about addiction brought ‘Huntington Goes Purple’ to life, in memory of her son, Vincent. Every day that we chip away at the stigma of addiction, we save lives,” Councilman Cuthbertson told the Journal.

The task force has multiple events planned for Recovery Month, including the following:

Flag Raising on National Overdose Day for National Recovery Month
Tuesday August 31 at 12pm
Village Green in Huntington (corner of 25A and Park Ave)

Overdose Awareness Day: Night of Remembrance Candlelight Vigil
August 31, 2021 from 7:30-9pm
Northport Village Park

LI United for Recovery Walk
September 18 from 11:30am-1:00pm
Heckscher Park, NY 25A & Prime Ave, Huntington

Celebration of Hope and Recovery
September 28, 2021 from 7-9pm
Old First Church, 125 Main St, Huntington

If you’d like to get involved with the Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force or are seeking support, visit www.ndatf.org or email: info@ndatf.org