Skip to Content

Enhancing Arlington Advocates’ Call for Improved After-School Programs to Combat Teen Overdoses: Emphasizing the Significance of Every Young Life

Advocates are urging Arlington County to allocate an additional $2 million towards programs aimed at preventing student fatalities due to drug overdoses.

During a gathering at Kenmore Middle School, over 250 individuals, including the mother of a student who tragically passed away from a suspected fentanyl overdose in September, emphasized the critical need for increased funding for free after-school initiatives. The lack of engaging and accessible programs is believed to contribute to heightened risks of substance abuse among students.

Janeth Valenzuela, a key organizer and co-founder of the Arlington Schools Hispanic Parents Association (ASHPA), stressed the importance of investing in after-school activities as a means of safeguarding lives and shaping a brighter future for children within the community.

In a heartfelt plea, Luz Rodríguez, the mother of Jorge Rodríguez, implored Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Takis Karantonis and member Maureen Coffey to take decisive action to prevent further tragedies like her son’s untimely death due to drugs.

Karantonis expressed his commitment to approaching the upcoming budget negotiations with a mindset geared towards allocating the necessary $2 million for this cause. He acknowledged the urgency of the situation and advocated for increased funding to combat teenage substance abuse.

On the other hand, Coffey refrained from specifying a particular amount but assured her dedication to advocating for substantial and sustained financial support for these vital programs.

The recent allocation of $750,000 by the County Board towards initiatives addressing youth drug use signifies a step in the right direction. This funding has been utilized to expand weekend programs for teenagers, bolster juvenile case management, and enhance awareness about existing resources.

Moreover, additional counselors have been recruited to provide support at various high schools, with plans underway to onboard more professionals to further assist students in need.

Various community organizations, including Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), have recommended a $2 million investment to facilitate the participation of underserved youth in daily after-school activities. These programs would cater to diverse interests such as sports, arts, and other recreational pursuits.

The pressing need for enhanced substance abuse education and improved access to mental health professionals has been underscored by stakeholders, emphasizing the gaps in current educational initiatives and the challenges in accessing necessary support services.

For individuals like Marina, a senior at Wakefield High School, the battle against opioid addiction hits close to home. Marina, who struggled with opioid dependency from a young age, underscored the importance of early intervention, therapy, medication, and a strong support system in overcoming addiction.

The urgency of addressing the opioid crisis was further highlighted by instances of fatal overdoses within school communities, shedding light on the pervasive nature of substance abuse among teenagers.

As the community grapples with the escalating opioid crisis, the collective plea is for proactive measures, increased awareness, and robust support systems to safeguard the well-being of youth and prevent further tragedies from unfolding.