Authors Posts by Father Francis Pizzarelli

Father Francis Pizzarelli

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

The American landscape continues to be burdened with conflict, dishonesty and ineffective leadership at every level of government. As I write this column, more than 800,000 federal employees will not be paid because of a government shutdown. They unfortunately are being held captive by a government that is paralyzed on both sides of the aisle.

As the New Year begins, let’s not be distracted by a political rhetoric that is more fixated on ad hominem attacks and divisiveness, but rather let us support positive action on behalf of all Americans.

Our country is founded on the principle of “we the people.” We must renew our commitment to stand up for social justice, for equality and inclusiveness for all people, no matter what their ethnicity, race, color, sexual orientation, economic or social status.

The leaders of our faith community, both locally and nationally, must move out of their coma of silence, not become political or feed the rhetoric of hate and divisiveness, but rather they must stand up and call us to civility and a discourse that supports and respects the human dignity and integrity of every American citizen.

At the beginning of every New Year, we traditionally make a series of New Year’s resolutions that we break by Jan. 2. This year let’s identify some important social issues that urgently need to be addressed and work diligently at creative solutions that will improve the quality of life in all of our communities.

Homelessness is a growing problem across our county. Our traditional approach is a poor Band-Aid that sets most homeless up for failure. The poor and the homeless live in the shadows. They’ve no fixed address so they have no political representation — no one to voice their concerns and struggles.

Our Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged to deal with the homeless, is working with an antiquated model that is outdated and inefficient, therefore costing you, the taxpayer, an extraordinary amount of money and does little to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness in our midst.

Let us be mindful that more and more of our homeless are mentally ill, drug addicts and returning veterans suffering from untreated PTSD. We lack the basic human resources to break their cycle of dependency on the system.

The opioid crisis is worse than it was last year. As I write this column, I buried two more young people who died senselessly because of this epidemic.

The president of the United States called the opioid epidemic a national health crisis. It is, but again we pay lip service to a national infection but are doing little to treat it effectively. Evidence-based treatment says we need long-term residential treatment beds for a minimum of one year to 18 months, if we hope to empower the recovering addict to wellness and long-term recovery.

We have very limited resources in this regard. The few resources we do have are overtaxed with referrals and are underfunded. The time for talking is over; it’s time for positive action!

These two issues are massive. However, I am optimistic that we have the people and the resources to make a difference. We need to think outside the box, be creative, be willing to risk and most importantly believe we can make a difference that counts. I do!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

By Fr. Francis Pizzarrelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

The Christmas season is upon us. The village of Port Jefferson is decked out with lights and wreaths — there is definitely a spirit of Christmas in the air. 

The world is a crazy place. The violence and hate has become infectious, but the reason for the season has taken a hold of us once again in a number of places. People are reaching out and bridging differences. 

One such instance is Christmas Magic, an event that magically touches hearts old and young alike with the spirit of giving, sharing and serving others. Started more than 25 years ago by a young attorney who wanted his children to understand the real meaning of Christmas, his act of kindness and generosity has touched thousands of people across our county every Christmas season. 

Hundreds of caring high school students to college students, from youth programs and church communities sacrifice their time and reach out to thousands of children living in our shelters during the holiday season.

Close to 3,000 people gathered at Carnegie Hall on the second Monday in December this year for a Christmas concert. The headliners were powerful: Andy Cooney and his band, the Hibernian Festival Singers, the Irish Tenors, the New York Tenors and eight young men who have become a band of brothers supported by an extraordinary female voice that makes the H.I.M.S. and Her such an extraordinary musical talent.

This band of brothers are young men who are broken and wounded, from all over, trying to reclaim their lives while living in a long-term nontraditional treatment program for addictions. The story of these men is a story of powerful change and transformation. Their performance at Carnegie Hall brought that packed house of concertgoers to their feet. It was a night of inspiration to remember.

A few days before their performance at Carnegie Hall these gifted and talented men volunteered to sing Christmas carols at the retirement home for the Dominican Sisters at their motherhouse in Amityville. I started to visit these sisters every Advent because I’m a product of Dominican education. In my junior high school years, I was profoundly influenced by three very dynamic women of faith. This has been my simple way of saying thank you.

After serving the church in a variety of leadership roles for more than 50 years, my former eighth-grade teacher took a job at Pax Christi, an emergency men’s shelter in Port Jefferson. She began working five days a week until she was 85 years old cleaning toilets, making beds and bringing hope to countless men who thought their lives were hopeless.

Today Sr. Beata is in her mid-90s. She is still as sharp as can be but has a difficult time getting around. The sisters she lives with range in age from their mid-70s to 107 years old. 

After caroling that Saturday morning, the young men walked among these extraordinary women hugging and kissing them; the room was aglow. The sister who is 107 years old came over to me to thank me for bringing these young men. She said it was her greatest Christmas present. All her family has died and her friends as well. She has no visitors. After one of the young men hugged her she started to cry. She hadn’t been hugged in over a year and she said thank you for helping her feel alive again.

As we drove home, these men on the road to recovery and wellness were on fire — not realizing how in their brokenness with their simple carols they brought so much joy to a community of women who were such a source of hope and light for so many generations.

Christmas seems to be that time of year to remind each other of the profound goodness that lives within each of us and to be conscious that each one of us has the power to make a difference that really does count.

Merry Christmas!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Midterm elections are complete. We need to continue to stand up and give voice to social justice and human rights for all. Those we have elected and re-elected are there to serve us, “We the People,” not special interests, not a particular party but all of us. We have a responsibility to hold those who hold public office to serious accountability. They need to support the issues that are most important to the constituents they represent.

As the holiday season approaches, we need to put the divisive, disrespectful rhetoric of this past election season behind us. Let us look for new ways to build bridges with our differences instead of building walls. Let us engage in conversations that are inclusive and life-giving. Even if after the conversation is complete we agree to disagree, let us still embrace a spirit of respect for one another and keep the door open to new conversations that can make our communities better and stronger.

For Thanksgiving, I am forever grateful to our community. In our diversity is also the foundation of our greatness. I have seen firsthand this community build strong bridges that transcend racial, religious, social, political and economic issues; we are better for these bridges.

We’re not perfect, but in our imperfection we continue to feed the poor, to provide shelter and support for the homeless and to afford mental health services for those who are overwhelmed with life and so much more.

Our local hospitals, our fire departments, our ambulance services are on call 24/7 to respond to any kind of human trauma and/or tragedy. They are among the most compassionate and giving people I have ever been privileged to know; their self-sacrifice and service to others is an inspiration.

Our local schools are among the best in the state and probably the nation. Maryhaven Center of Hope is a historical landmark within our community. For more than 100 years, its compassionate and comprehensive services have provided invaluable support for the most vulnerable among us.

We are blessed to have a wide range of religious traditions actively engaged in our larger community, reminding us regularly of the importance to love, to forgive and to be generous to those in need without judgment or exclusion. Our religious leaders have consistently been an invaluable source of wisdom and support for our diverse community.

As I get ready to celebrate my 39th Thanksgiving in Port Jefferson, I will especially give God thanks for our community that reminds me every day that hope lives and must be the anthem of our souls! I am forever grateful for our community’s warmth, generosity and service. A blessed Thanksgiving to all and thank you!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

The H.I.M.S. and Her

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Since I last wrote this column, so much has happened that underscores that we have lost our moral compass. The confirmation process of our most recent Supreme Court Justice was an embarrassment. The behavior on the part of all involved on both sides of the aisle including the White House was reprehensible.

Have we lost all respect for the integrity and dignity of the human person? True leaders lead by personal example and respect. The moral decay has become infectious. The search for the truth has become inconsequential.

Meanwhile, on the home front parents continue to senselessly bury their children of all ages due to the opioid epidemic, and our national health crisis seems to have no real end in sight.

For all the circular rhetoric around this issue, we still have no additional beds for long-term residential treatment. Insurance companies continue to murder our most vulnerable by telling them to try outpatient treatment first; and if they fail, then they will pay for residential care, which for the record is down to less than 11 days!

Those that we have elected to lead us and protect us are clearly uneducated and clueless in regards to the devastation of this epidemic.

One outraged mother met with a group of parents and a local congressional person to voice their concerns for his lack of support on this issue and his support of the insurance industry. One of the mothers spoke out and said: “I did what you told us to do; I tried outpatient treatment for my son and he failed!” She then placed the cremated ashes of her son on his desk. The congressperson said nothing!

Despite all of this negativity, hope continues to give me strength to fight the good fight. On Oct. 20 at the Shoreham Country Club, a band that came together in early recovery did a benefit concert. They were amazing. They are known as the H.I.M.S. (Hope Inspired Men Sing) and Her. It was a refreshing evening of music that was filled with hope, change and transformation. People do recover and reclaim their lives after addiction!

The event was the idea of a retired lawyer from Shoreham who wanted to raise awareness around the affliction of addiction and also raise money that could help the recovery effort that is happening at Hope Academy on the grounds of Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai. Thanks to her efforts more than $4,000 was raised that night.

On Sunday afternoon, at the dynamic Mount Sinai Congregational Church in Mount Sinai, that community installed a new pastor, the Rev. Phil Holson. The celebration was filled with joy, gratitude and renewed hopefulness.

The Mount Sinai Congregational Church has been a prophetic voice in our midst. As a local faith community, members don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk! 

This is evidenced in their mission statement that is quite inclusive. It states as a congregation they are committed to justice and all are welcome — regardless of age, race, abilities, economic or marital status, gender, sexual orientation or gender identification. They state they are a church that is open and affirming of all people, as we are all made in the image of God.

For almost four decades, I have seen this church community in action. Their commitment to social justice is an inspiration! Welcome Pastor Phil to the neighborhood! Thanks for saying yes — we need another prophetic voice in our midst!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Another school year has begun. In the more than three decades that I have had the privilege of teaching college and graduate students, I have never had a class that I did not love and learn from. I continue to be amazed at their openness and enthusiasm about life.

Their love for others, their concern for the environment and their desire to leave the planet better than how they found it continues to inspire me to do my small part at making the world a better place.

Every fall semester I teach an honors sociology class at Suffolk County Community College in Selden, one of our best-kept secrets in higher education. Usually by my second class, I ask my students how many are registered to vote, and then take a count on how many are not registered to vote. It is always a mix on who is and who is not registered.

After the question about voter registration, I ask how many intend to vote. This semester I was shocked at how many indicated that they had no intention or desire to vote. The conversation that erupted after that statement was deeply troubling. Most of my students feel that their vote is meaningless and that their voice does not matter at all. They believe that our country is led by special interests and not by those elected to represent the people.

Even more disturbing was my question about the issues. What are they? Who do they affect? Some could articulate some of the national issues like gun safety and a broken immigration system. Very few could identify or articulate the local issues like health care, high taxes and affordable housing to name a few. 

What was really troubling is that this group of students who are among the brightest of the bright who may go on to Harvard or Yale, have no foundation on the core values of our nation and how it works.

We in education need to revisit this issue and reassess how we are preparing the next generation of American leaders. What are we doing in our junior high and in our high schools civics classes? Are we teaching our students to be critical thinkers and analytical writers? Are we discussing the important social issues of our times and helping them to understand what it means to be sociologically mindful?

They are the next generation of leaders that need to salvage our democracy and protect human rights for all. We need to work harder to prepare the next generation to become our future leaders. Our democracy demands it and our country desperately needs them.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

District Attorney Tim Sini (D) has announced a new initiative to combat the drug epidemic ravaging Suffolk County. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Recently District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced a new initiative to combat the drug epidemic ravaging Suffolk County. The Comprehensive Addiction Recovery and Education Program, or CARE Program, allows nonviolent defendants with substance abuse disorders a full dismissal of chargers if the person successfully completes a 90-day treatment program. It was designed by prosecutors, defense attorneys and court officials.

This initiative is definitely a positive step in the right direction. As someone who has provided outpatient and residential treatment for addictions for more than 25 years, I am deeply concerned that this effort lacks substance and appropriate resources for those struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues.

Many of our judges have already been open to alternative sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders. 

There are some important facts that seem to always get buried when this important issue is raised. These are facts that the public should know. 

First and foremost, we do not have nearly enough detox and/or residential treatment beds.

And insurance no longer covers a full 28-day stay in a residential treatment program. At best, most will only cover 7 to 11 days. That is unconscionable. More tragically, many insurance companies tell those battling chronic addiction “try outpatient treatment first — fail at this then we will pay for residential care.”

A growing number of young men and women are trying outpatient treatment first and are failing in record numbers. They are dying! What is very disturbing is that few to no voices are crying out about this horrific human atrocity.

Evidence-based treatment grounded in competent research states that the chronic opioid and heroin addict needs long-term residential treatment if long-term recovery is the hope for outcome.

Presently in Suffolk County we have two programs that provide more than three months of care. Only one program is not insurance based.

So the CARE initiative is a great step forward. Let’s not set those struggling with addictions within the criminal justice system up for failure because we lack the comprehensive and competent resources to make the CARE Program an effective tool on one’s road to recovery and wellness.

Unfortunately, outpatient programs have very limited success with chronic drug abusers. Do some enter and sustain health recovery? Yes, but a growing number fail.

As one local religious leader, I have presided at way too many funerals for young people who have died senselessly around addiction. In the past three weeks, I have had three young adults with tremendous potential lose their lives because of overdosing on heroin. I have talked with many of my colleagues in religion who are burying a record number of young people within their own faith traditions. 

Actions speak louder than words. The violence of our silence is contributing to this national health crisis. Change and transformation is possible. I live among these miracles everyday.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Photo by Alex Petroski

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

June is the month to celebrate so many wonderful connections. We celebrate the beginning of summer, various graduations and the gift of our fathers.

This year our schools have been in crisis because of the conflict around gun safety and the unfortunate tragedies caused by reckless gun use in a number of our schools across the country. We continue to struggle around the value of common core, teacher evaluations and empowering students to learn not just academic lessons but also life lessons.

Our schools are an invaluable resource that we are destroying. They are environments that have helped countless students find their way in the world and have provided a context for children to grow and become all that they can be. Schools have helped many to build positive self-esteem and self-worth and have empowered our students to dream dreams and believe that their dreams really can happen.

Nationally, our educational system seems to be broken. We are more fixated on test scores and teacher evaluations than on providing an environment where students can thrive and excel; a place where teachers can teach and be creative; a place where their spirit of love of education can be contagious. We’ve lost that and now we are failing our students and setting them up for disaster. 

Despite the landscape this year, an extraordinary group of young men and women have graduated from our high schools. Our communities are better and brighter because these young men and women have spent time in our schools. They are our future leaders, our future Congress and our future president. Hopefully they will continue their educational journey with passion and energy, believing that they can make a difference in our world.

Photo by Alex Petroski

Seniors, as you graduate from high school this year, look to discover enough goodness in others to believe in a world of peace and be willing to work for peace grounded in justice.

May a kind word, a reassuring touch and a warm smile be yours every day of your life. Remember the sunshine when the storm seems unending; teach love to those who only know hate; and let the love embrace you as you continue your journey in the world.

Think positive, make positive choices — choice not chance determines one’s destiny. You may make a living by what you get but make a life by what you give. Give generously of your heart, your time, your talent and your treasure; the autograph you leave will make a tremendous difference in the world.

Don’t judge a book by its cover or stop at the introduction. Read it through, see the meaning and message it offers for life. Everyone’s life is sacred and important, even those who are different from you or those you do not like. Be more inclusive than exclusive; don’t be blinded by those who tend to use shame, blame, guilt and religion to shackle people and divide them. Set people free with your respect and your nonjudgmental way.

These are troubling times. The rhetoric of our country is despicable and disrespectful. As the next generation of leaders, raise the bar, dare to be different. Have the courage to stand up and be counted, challenge injustice, disrespect and dismissive rhetoric. 

Make America good again by rejecting the unconscionable behavior of those who lead us. Do not allow them to shape how you see the world. Commit yourselves to building bridges and not walls. Live a balanced life. Learn a little, think a little, dance, play, have a great sense of humor. But most of all be aware of wonder and respect it!

May your moral compass be grounded in respect for all human beings, no matter what their color, their race, their creed and/or sexual orientation. May this compass guide you on a path that is committed to working for peace, human rights and social justice for all. As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Congratulations graduates of 2018. Thanks for making the world a little richer, a little brighter and a better place to be and thank you for being our beacon of hope!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

On day 5 ... we visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem ... It was breathtaking.

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Greetings from Jerusalem, Israel! I am writing this column from the Notre Dame Hotel right outside the Jaffa Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem.

Twenty-three pilgrims from all over the metropolitan area made the commitment to journey together for eight days. We began our pilgrimage as strangers but are leaving as real friends who shared the journey of a lifetime.

Our pilgrimage began by landing in Tel Aviv where we boarded a bus that took us to the ancient seaport of Jaffa. From there we drove along the Mediterranean coast to the ruins of the ancient Roman capital of Caesarea built by Herod the Great in around 22 B.C.

We then went on to see the great Roman theater and the aqueduct in the Herodian port. From there we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. I celebrated Mass on the Mount of the Beatitudes. We then proceeded to Capernaum — the city of Jesus and St. Peter. After that we visited the famous biblical city of Caesarea Philippi.

We began day 5 with a visit to the ancient city of Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene. We visited the ruins of this first-century town and its synagogue, where tradition tells us Jesus himself visited, taught and preached. In the afternoon, we visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where tradition says the child Jesus was born. It was breathtaking.

On days 6, 7 and 8 we visited Masada, the fortress where Jewish zealots held off the armies of the Roman Empire — choosing suicide over surrender. We went to the Dead Sea where one floats and never sinks. It was 110°F that day and most of our trip. We visited a variety of other historical and religious sites outside of Jerusalem.

The rest of our pilgrimage was spent in the Old City. We prayed at the famous Western Wall, visited the room of the Last Supper as well as the Garden of Gethsemane. I had the privilege of saying Mass at the Church of All Nations, where Jesus prayed to be spared of the cross. After Mass, we had a panoramic view from the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem. We went into the Old City and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and actually walked the Stations of the Cross — Jesus’ final walk to the cross and crucifixion.

Each day was a powerful reminder of history and faith. By the end of our journey, we had gone from being a band of strangers to a community of friends grateful for the journey. 

This is my third visit to Israel. Each time I feel more enriched when I return home. The Scripture becomes more real and alive because I’ve seen firsthand the places of which it speaks.

This trip was unique because we went to Israel prepared for a lot of upheaval because of the news reports here in the States. We saw some signs of a nation at war; however, I heard firsthand a very different account of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

On my free day, I spent my time walking in the old and new city of Jerusalem talking to Jews, Muslims and Christians hearing their stories about life in Israel. Each person had the same hopes and expectations that we do — to live freely with respect, dignity and untapped possibilities to dream and make those dreams come true!

For every believer and/or lover of history, Israel should be on your bucket list. You will not be disappointed!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

The band H.I.M.S. performs at the War on Addiction Rally. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

On Saturday, April 21, more than 1,000 people gathered to rally against drug addiction at Bald Hill in Farmingville. It was a powerful demonstration of our human spirit!

The event was spearheaded by two parents, who buried their son, who died of a heroin overdose, two years ago. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, they decided to become proactive and raise people’s awareness to the painful affliction of addiction. They urged greater advocacy for more accessible residential treatment beds for those battling addiction.

The speakers were challenging and heart wrenching. Each one eloquently reminded us to be a voice for change — urging us to speak loudly about the stigma and shame that so many people live with because of addiction and its infection.

A mother wrote a piercing letter that was read about her son who overdosed and died last year. She spoke of the heartache she still endures a year later. N.L. was in his mid-20s. He was bright, handsome, very athletic and born into an extraordinary family. After an athletic injury and being prescribed opiates for pain, his nightmare began. His family’s nightmare began as well.

N.L. constantly struggled with long-term recovery and abstinence. His mother recounted that during one of the periods of abstinence, her son was working hard at recovery. One day he was at a local bagel store in his community waiting on line and saw the father of a friend. He went to shake his hand but the man turned his back and walked away! What was that about? 

N.L.’s sister was also tortured on social media. What happened to reaching out and providing support and encouragement for those struggling with recovery?

The rally that Saturday morning did provide support. However, it was bittersweet. So many who attended have already buried their children, and many others were struggling with sons and daughters who are still out there and using.

Too often when we talk about addiction, we talk about the dark side of this painful health epidemic. The day ended on a note of hope. So often we focus on all those who’ve overdosed and died because of this horrific health crisis.

People do recover! A group of young men who live in a long-term nontraditional rehabilitation residence in our community formed a band known as the H.I.M.S. — Hope Inspired Men Sing. They closed the rally with a powerful rendition of “Go Light Your World” by Chris Rice.

“There is a candle in every soul. Some brightly burning, some dark and cold. There is a Spirit who brings a fire. Ignites a candle and makes His home. … Cause we are a family whose hearts are blazing. So let’s raise our candles and light up the sky. … Make us a beacon in darkest times. … Hold out your candle for all to see it. Take your candle, and go light your world!”

These extraordinary young men, ranging in age from 25 to 46, stood before this crowd as a reminder that people do get better. People can reclaim their lives, rejoin their families and contribute to making the world a better place.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Local officials showed their support at last year's Walk Agains Addiction at Cedar Beach. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank

Last year more than 64,000 people died of drug overdoses across our country. In Suffolk County alone over 600 deaths occurred due to opioids. That doesn’t include the countless deaths of young people written up in our newspapers as dying from “heart attacks” because too many families are embarrassed and ashamed that their sons and daughters are addicts.

So our count of deaths due to heroin overdoses I contend is much higher than the quoted 600 deaths. As one clergy person in our community, I preside over one overdose death every other week. At this point, in Suffolk County, we are burying at least two or three young people each week.

Two years ago this month, a young man from our community tragically passed away from an accidental heroin overdose. Billy had struggled with addiction for a number of years. He was totally supported by his family with all of his recovery efforts. He had extended periods where he was drug-free. Unfortunately, he was not able to sustain long-term abstinence and recovery.

His parents were beside themselves. Their grief was beyond words. It was overwhelming. Billy’s dad spoke at his son’s funeral; using his son’s voice to address the extremely large crowd of young people that gathered to honor their friend.

He urged them to take care of themselves, reminded them that life is fragile and that they need each other. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, Billy’s parents decided to become proactive to celebrate the gift of their son’s life, raise awareness and educate people specifically about heroin addiction.

Probably one of their greatest gifts to this war against addiction is their power of example. Their love and positive energy led to the creation of the Walk Against Addiction, which was held at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai on April 22 of last year to honor their son’s life and struggle and provide support for other families who are struggling.

More than 600 people gathered on that rainy Saturday morning to make a statement that all life matters. Countless families came with signs honoring their children lost to addiction seeking the solidarity and support of other families.

Billy’s parents’ tenacity to raise awareness and educate people about the perils of recovery and wellness has been profound. As an addiction specialist, I know people do recover, reclaim their lives and live fully productive lives, but the journey is long and oftentimes very, very difficult!

Their energy and commitment gave birth to the War on Addiction Rally to be held on Saturday, April 21, 2018, at the Pennysaver Amphitheater at Bald Hill in Farmingville from 10:30 a.m. to noon. While this event is free to attend, donations are appreciated. The major purpose for this rally is to educate, raise awareness, rally for compassion, change and hope! The organizers are hoping to fill the amphitheater with more than 3,000 people.

This event is intended to be more than just a rally, to hopefully be the beginning of the movement that will inspire people to challenge the government to stop paying lip service to this national epidemic health crisis and actually begin to do something that matters. 

We need more treatment beds today, not tomorrow. We need to take on the insurance industry that is sentencing our kids to death in record numbers because they are denying residential treatment.

We need a greater network of support services for those battling addiction that is accessible to the person in early recovery. People who are afflicted with addiction need greater access to mental health services that are affordable and confident.

These are troubling times — disrespect, prejudice and discrimination are everywhere. We need to remove the stigma from people afflicted with addiction. We need to end the shame, blame and disrespect!

Our leadership on the federal and state level is a disgrace. They are an abysmal failure. They need to be challenged to give voice and support all those who are attempting to walk the difficult road of recovery, one day at a time. Sometimes it’s one hour at a time. However, hope is the anthem of our souls.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

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