There were almost 70,000 fatal drug overdoses by the end of 2017, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Each one of those deaths was uniquely tragic — and Stephanie Reifman wants their stories to be heard.

Stephanie first started researching the opioid crisis in 2013, after she heard about Cory Monteith’s overdose. Monteith was on the TV show Glee; he played Finn Hudson, a fun-loving jock who worries he’ll lose his cool factor when he tries out for the glee club. Off-screen, however, Monteith was facing much bigger demons than high school cliques. And when Stephanie read about his heroin and alcohol overdose, she was shocked.

She soon learned that Monteith was one of more than half a million addicts in the country. In Bergen County, NJ, where Stephanie lives, there were more than 24 deaths that same year. The more Stephanie learned, the more drawn she was to make a difference: She soon started HAPPY Week, a heroin education and prevention program for middle and high school students.

Today, HAPPY Week (Heroin Addiction Prevents People’s Years) presents programs to more than 15,000 students in the New York and New Jersey area. And for that, she is a clear choice to receive a 2018 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award.


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