Indian Independence Day celebration in Richmond puts spotlight on opioid Issue

Esha Mittal, who spoke on the opioid awareness, being felicitated by Pramod Amin, CEO of Shamin Hotels.
Esha Mittal, who spoke on the opioid awareness, being felicitated by Pramod Amin, CEO of Shamin Hotels.

Indian Americans and friends of India celebrate the 72nd anniversary of India’s Independence with great fervor while highlighting a key social issue at home, opioid awareness.

RICHMOND, V.A.: It was a gathering of people who call two places their home. Their country of origin India, and the United States, their home at present, where they have thrived and succeeded. Their sense of patriotism and giving back was evident as the theme and the mood straddled both countries and cultures.

Lauding how the Indian community lays emphasis on family values and education, the Speaker of the House Kirk Cox remarked, “I will like to say two things about the Indian community that I am most impressed with. First of all, the family effort is incredible. When you see a good student, you see a good family. Secondly the value of education in Indian families. I do not think I have seen any other group that values education the way Indian community does and I so much appreciate it.” He reminisced his teaching days in Chesterfield County where he saw this phenomenon closely.

The highlight of the evening was a young changemaker. Esha Mittal wowed the gathering with a narrative of how she is leading the effort to raise the awareness about the prevailing opiod crisis. She described the gravity of the crisis in great detail. Opioid overdose accounted for more than 42,000 deaths in 2016, more than any previous year on record and an estimated 40 percent of opioid overdose drugs involved a prescription opioid.

“This is not only a problem in adults but is rapidly increasing in the youth also. Ninety (90) percent of the addiction starts in the teenage years,” emphasized Mittal, adding that 44 percent of teens have at least one friend who abuses painkillers. Some 25 percent of the teens take prescription drugs not prescribed to them. Two out of five teens believe prescription drugs are safer than street drugs and one in five young deaths are drug related.

Mittal, a junior at Collegiate School, then went onto talk about her efforts to both address the issue and inspire and engage other young people to join hands. “I am proud to be associated with the ‘Turn the Tide’ tour and working to combat the opioid epidemic,” she said.

The American Pain Association under the leadership of Dr. Sanjay Gupta of New Jersey has launched the Turn the Tide tour. The group is bringing together various stakeholders, including the medical community, lawmakers and patients together.

Mittal, an Ambassador of the American Pain Association in Virginia, is striving to spread awareness of this issue in schools. “With everybody’s active participation we can fight this epidemic in every school in Virginia,” she said.

She made a vociferous appeal closing her remarks saying, “On this day when India attained its freedom, let’s work together towards freedom of all Virginians from opioid overuse.”

The message resonated so strongly with the audience that the next speaker, Mark Herring, Attorney General of Commonwealth of Virginia, picked up on the theme. “I want to applaud Esha Mittal for her leadership and everything she is doing help get information out in schools and everywhere else about the dangers of these drugs and how important it is and we all should be talking about this in schools, in families and with our friends so that we do not have more tragedies,” he said.

The attorney general added, “We cannot have economic prosperity without safe communities so I have been working with state, community leaders and law enforcement officials to do that and it is one other thing.”

Herring assured the community that he will ensure that civil liberties are protected and the diversity in the state is appreciated by one and all reminding everyone that the diversity is a great strength of the state, especially alluding to the rich showcasing of the Indian culture through the various dances and other cultural programs.

Other dignitaries of the evening included, Shannon Taylor, Henrico Commonwealth attorney; Schuyler Vanvalkenburg, Delegate for 72nd district, Sam Luis Taylor, Regional Director of Sen. Mark Warner; Dorothy Jaeckle, Chesterfield County Board Chairwoman; Dr. Joseph Casey, Chesterfield county administrator; John Childrey, the Republican nominee for Chesterfield Commonwealth Attorney; Dr. Kamlesh Dave and several other leaders of the community. An estimated 350 people were in attendance.

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