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As Staten Island battles a heroin epidemic, one native is leading the charge. NY1’s Stephanie Officer filed the following report.

Sharing their own experiences of overcoming addiction, students who have already been exposed to drugs are hoping to deter others from trying them.

“I was a homeless heroin addict. I was rescued by being arrested. Getting arrested gave me time of being by myself and sit with myself and get to think about my family,” said Jacquelin Tavares.

“I was doing Perc 30s. Percocets. I was using straight for three to four years,” Jamie Longo stated.

“We’re at Bloomingdale park all the time. We’re around the area, we smell it. I don’t wanna be like that when I get older,” said I.S. 34 student Michael Federico.

Alicia Reddy wants this message to resonate with every audience member who attended her Scared Straight event at Tottenville High School Thursday night.

The program aims to deter people from using drugs by hearing from those who have lost loved ones.

Reddy, a registered nurse, worked in detox 5 years ago when she noticed there weren’t many resources like this.

“I realized a big part of the problem speaking to parents weren’t the addicts, it’s a family disease. A lot of the parents were uneducated and they didn’t really know what to do, where to turn,” Reddy stated.

“Me, I’m a father to two kids and it’s just hard to see. I don’t want my family to go through that,” Old Town resident Angel Rodriguez said.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show Staten Island has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the city.

It’s why health officials say forums like this are extremely important.

“Awareness and education. We have to keep awareing and educating. And speaking about it. And not hiding,” said Angela Attanasio of Community Health Action.

“To me, prevention is key,” Reddy said.

If you’d like to know more about Reddy’s program, you can reach out to her at addictionangel.rn@gmail.com

By Stephanie Officer Friday, October 16, 2015 at 11:06 AM EDT