Victoria’s Voice hosts ‘Save Our Kids’ discussion to educate on the drug epidemic | West Orange Times & Observer

The Victoria’s Voice Foundation hosted the “Save Our Kids” roundtable discussion to educate the community on the drug epidemic and its effects on Monday, Feb. 28, at the Westgate Lakes Resort and Spa.

Prominent figures from across the country convened to raise awareness, educate the community and present possible solutions.

“The drug epidemic is getting even worse,” VVF co-founder Jackie Siegel said. “This is real. There are invisible bullets that are killing our next generation.”

Keynote speakers at the event included David and Jackie Siegel, co-founders of VVF, owners of Westgate Resorts and Windermere residents; Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody; Michael Marder, co-managing director and co-founder of Greenspoon Marder LLP; VVF Director of Education Michael DeLeon; Real America’s Voice national correspondent Ben Bergquam; Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma; Victoria Seaman, Las Vegas council woman; and Legacy Health CEO Brandy Klingman.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during a 12-month period ending in April 2021. That represented an increase of 28.5% from the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before The new data documents that estimated overdose deaths from opioids increased to 75,673 in the 12-month period ending in April 2021, up from 56,064 the year before.

Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased in the 12-month period ending in April 2021.

VITAL SIGNS

The Siegels said they didn’t know how to notice and interpret certain signals their daughter, Victoria, who died from a drug overdose, was exhibiting.

Now, they want to make sure others don’t miss the same signs.

“I felt like my whole world crumbled,” Jackie Siegel said. “While I focused on my pain, I watched David find the strength to get up and find purpose for our daughter Victoria’s death, to make sure that no other child died the way she did.”

Gateways that can open the door to substance abuse include low self-esteem, bullying, sexual behaviors, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, vaping and drugs.

Vital signs of drug use can be found in sudden weight loss or gain; change in sleep patterns; abnormal periods of extreme energy or chattiness; chronic upper respiratory issues; nose bleeds or sinusitis; or worsening dental problems.

As a parent and clinician, Klingman said parents need to educate children and have open conversations about the dangers and effects of alcohol and other drugs.

She screens her kids for drugs randomly and frequently.

“The kids are dropping like flies,” she said. “Drug screens should be part of your family life — just like brushing your teeth.”

Klingman said accessibility to drugs has never been easier through the use of technology, the potency of drugs has increased and that drugs do not discriminate against age, gender, race or other identity.

She said the most common reason kids begin taking drugs is misinformation. Kids believe they are invincible and they can “experiment” with a drug one time and stop, which is not the case.

TEACHING, NOT TELLING

DeLeon knows exactly what kids are thinking when they decide to take drugs.

The former addict and ex-offender blends his personal experiences with his educational program “Steered Straight,” which aims to reach youth and young adults through motivational speaking, life-sharing seminars and interactive curriculum, to help youth follow positive, productive paths.

DeLeon shared said he wants to teach — rather than tell — through Victoria’s Voice.

“My primary vision is prevention,” he said. “The only way to prevent addiction is to prevent it from starting in the first place, and the only place we can do that is with kids.”

DeLeon said 90% of addiction begins between the ages of 7 and 17, and 90% of the addiction is built on trauma.

The gateway drugs such as marijuana, nicotine and vaping are exploding in middle and high schools.

“The kids are suffering from what we did through COVID,” DeLeon said. “I don’t want to debate masks and vaccines. … Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, what we did in this country was take social connection away from children. We put them in isolation and all of the things that fed their support, their self-worth, their self-esteem, we took that away and then we made nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana more readily available.”

FIGHTING FENTANYL

As a national border correspondent and former addict, Bergquam has seen the enormous amounts of fentanyl that enter the country with his own eyes.

However, he said the biggest issue across America is the loss of its moral foundation.

“We have allowed moral relativism to take away the reality of right and wrong and good and bad,” he said.

Bergquam said sees the drugs come across the southern borders, the precursors coming from China and going into Mexico, where cartels then finish the product and bring it to the US

“Anyone who says they want open borders is part of the problem,” he said. “You may say we don’t want it to be political, but ask them, ‘Do you support American children?’ Because if you do, then you need to secure the border — that’s the bottom line. … I don’t want to have a story like the Siegel’s.”

THE OPIOD ANTAGONIST

Lemma believes the issue of the drug epidemic goes beyond political ideology.

He said fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine, 50 times more potent than heroin, and carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

“Somebody takes that drug and attaches it to the neuroreceptors in the brain and basically tells people to stop breathing,” he said.

He was first introduced to NARCAN, also known as naloxone, by David Siegel.

NARCAN works as an opioid antagonist, with the ability to treat narcotic overdose in an emergency situation.

Lemma said first responders in Seminole County deployed NARCAN 700 times in the last year and brought 700 residents back to life.

“This is not a situation of trying to make bad people good but rather a situation of making sick people well,” he said.

POLITICS

Some politicians are working to advocate for some of these life-saving ideas. US Rep. French Hill and US Rep. Debbie Diegel, who attended the event virtually, recently introduced the Preventing Overdoses and Saving Lives Act.

The act aims to “amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize grants to eligible entities to develop strategic response plans with respect to the opioid crisis, and to require health care practitioners prescribing an opioid for certain patients to also prescribe an opioid overdose reversal drug, and for other purposes.”

Moody said when she was as a judge in Florida and sat on the juvenile and criminal felony courts, she saw how the opioid epidemic was ravaging the state.

She helped to create Dose of Reality Florida, which “provides individuals, health care providers, teachers, coaches and others with opioid-related resources in one location, allowing for quick and easy access to vital information.”

ABOUT VICTORIA’S VOICE

The Siegels’ lives changed forever June 6, 2015, when their daughter, Victoria, died from a drug overdose.

The 18-year-old was only one of the 129 Americans to die from a drug overdose that day in 2015.

Although the Siegels were in immense pain, they used their struggles to create something beautiful and to help others.

The Victoria’s Voice Foundation was started soon after to combat drug addiction through a series of programs including Teen Talk Series, Social Media For Good and Victory Clubs.

Participating sponsors include Westgate Resorts, the Las Vegas Raiders, UFC, Wells Fargo and Mrs. America.

To make a donation to Victoria’s Voice Foundation, click here.

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