Purple lights illuminate Main Street in Islip Hamlet through September
Twently-one people have died in the Town of Islip due to addiction-related causes this year. Last year, Islip Town EMS, fire and law enforcement responded to 1,344 overdose-related 911 emergency calls.
To combat the issue, Islip officials, task force leaders, local businesses and residents affected by the national epidemic are standing behind Kathy Koenigsdorf—who lost her son, Jake, six years ago to a heroin overdose—who has taken the lead on the Islip Goes Purple initiative. The town officially went purple on Thursday, Sept. 26, an important and significant day for the town, said supervisor Angie Carpenter, noting that September was National Recovery Month.
“Today marks Islip’s commitment to stand together united in memory of the lives lost, those in recovery, those struggling and the Islip families affected by the opioid and heroin crisis,” she said, explaining that the town has been at the foreront of the crisis by forming the Islip Opioid and Heroin Task Force last year. “This crisis does not discriminate. It affects everyone regardless of economic or social status.”
Koenigsdorf, the founder of the Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation, and her team went through Islip Hamlet’s main corridor and surrounding residences leading up to Thursday’s event, distributing purple light bulbs and information.
“What should have taken about an hour and a half to hand out fliers and bulbs took about four hours,” Koenigsdorf said. “Everyone had a story. Everyone wanted to talk about how they have been impacted.”
Koenigsdorf said she knows the struggle and the ultimate loss inevitably linked to this epidemic.
“But I have never known the shame,” she said. “I have been loud since Day 1. Shame keeps people from asking for help. Some of our community are suffering in the dark by themselves and afraid for themselves. They are afraid for their loved ones, and they are afraid for the judgment of others. Some have lost their kids, like me. Some their spouses, some their brothers and sisters. And some lost their best friends.”
Although living through a tragedy of this sort and the epidemic overall may seem hopeless and frustrating at times, Koenigsdorf said it is important to continue making strides in the fight, maintain hope, and rekindle the hope for those who have ultimately given up.
“Some who are here today are living proof that recovery is possible,” she said. “I know recovery is possible. But we need you. The opioid task force is committed to making opportunity for everyone.”
MaryAnn Pfeiffer, co-chair of the task force, recognized the superintendents of the schools within the Town of Islip during the lighting ceremony held last Friday, as each district expressed cooperation with the initiative.
A map of the district was laid out on a table, and Koenigsdorf encouraged everyone to do at least one of three things: Residents who are eager to volunteer in the effort were asked to fill out a sticky note with their name and district number and then place the sticky note on the map correlating with their residence. If a resident has a new idea in terms of intervention, Koenigsdorf reinforced writing the idea down so that the task force can consider the suggestion and possibly disseminate information about those who are interested in taking part. Thirdly, Koenigsdorf asked anyone involved in a group that wants to take a stand against the opioid epidemic to provide contact information and also list which school district the group mostly represents.
The initiative, this year, was confined to just Islip Hamlet, though businesses and entities from other parts of the town have heard about it and are also participating. Not only will the initiative be expanded to the entirety of the township next year, but it will also last the entire month of September, beginning on Aug. 31, International Overdose Awareness Day.
“Starting today and over the next months, we will be gathering data, people [and] organizations’ support and ideas,” Koenigsdorf said. “We are so grateful for everyone who came here today to be part of something bigger than any one person or any one organization.” n