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Westchester County’s 6th annual CODA youth summit unites over 600 students

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Over 600 high school students from 49 schools across Westchester County converged virtually for the 6th annual CODA (Co-Occurring Disorders Awareness) You(th) Summit.

Hosted by Westchester County, this interactive summit aimed to equip students with crucial insights into co-occurring disorders—a complex interplay of mental health challenges and substance misuse/addiction.

The significance of addressing co-occurring disorders cannot be overstated, with more than 20 million Americans grappling with this multifaceted issue. Recognizing the pressing need for awareness and understanding, each participating school delegated 10-15 students to actively participate in the youth-driven event.

Westchester County Executive, George Latimer, underscored the importance of such initiatives, stating, “The Youth Summit is yet another example of Westchester County coming together to teach and work together on issues that our students face every day.”

Latimer emphasized the potential of education and resource access in saving lives and breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health and substance misuse.

Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health, Michael Orth, echoed Latimer’s sentiments, lauding the significant turnout and student engagement. Orth highlighted the pivotal role of youth leadership in empowering peers with the tools to prevent and address co-occurring disorders effectively.

The summit, made possible through collaboration between the Westchester County Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH), the Youth Bureau, and The Harris Project Inc., provided a platform for students to foster awareness, promote peer support, and access valuable resources. Student Assistance Services, alongside counselors and designated high school leaders, facilitated discussions aimed at fostering a culture of understanding and support.

Rooted in the mission of The Harris Project Inc., the concept of CODA and its April celebrations serve as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for prevention and treatment initiatives.

Founded in 2013 following the tragic loss of 19-year-old Harris Marquesano to accidental overdose, the nonprofit is dedicated to transforming the system of care for individuals facing co-occurring disorders.

Stephanie Marquesano, Founder of The Harris Project Inc., expressed her satisfaction with the summit’s impact, highlighting the screening of the award-winning public service campaign, “You Don’t Know the Half of It.” Marquesano emphasized the significance of raising awareness and delivering prevention programming to drive successful outcomes.

With Harris Marquesano’s 30th birthday coinciding with a Total Eclipse on April 8th, the summit also served as a poignant reminder to bring co-occurring disorders out of the shadows and into the light. Over 2,000 pairs of custom eclipse glasses were distributed, symbolizing the community’s commitment to fostering awareness and support.

As the summit drew to a close, it left a lasting impression on participants, reaffirming the collective resolve to address co-occurring disorders head-on and pave the way for brighter, healthier futures for all.

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