ISLIP, NY — The opioid epidemic is running rampant in Suffolk County and a growing number of people are trying to navigate their grief.

The Islip community aims to help and is gathering for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Suffolk County Environmental Association to celebrate a new "wind phone" that offers a way for people to connect with loved ones they've lost to an overdose.

"Wind phones are a comfort tool for anyone who is grieving and you can think of it as a phone for people with no earthly phone number. Your message is sent on the wind," Carole Trottere, a Suffolk resident who lost her 30-year-old son to fentanyl in 2018, told Patch.

The wind phone was installed by Gabriel’s Giving Tree (GGT), an organization that helps local families with the costs of burying loved ones who died from drug overdoses.

Paulette Phillippe of Mattituck founded GGT to honor Gabriel, her 15-year-old grandson who died from an overdose.

Over one million people have died since 1999 from drug overdoses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2022, Suffolk County reported more than 400 deaths caused by drug overdoses, with fentanyl overdose deaths ranking the highest.

Wind phones originated in Japan in 2010 when Itaru Sasaki was grieving a cousin who died of cancer. Sasaki found an old-fashioned phone booth, installed an old rotary phone and put it in his garden. It was there he felt connected to his cousin and found comfort while grieving. He named it, Kaze No Denwa, aka he "Telephone of the Wind."

According to My Wind Phone, there are currently 132 wind phones across the United States, 66 around the world, and 9 "coming soon."

“We hope that this Wind Phone will provide comfort to anyone who has lost a loved one. What wouldn’t we give for the opportunity to talk to our children," Trottere said. "I’m certain the wind phone will serve as a special connection between us and our loved ones who are no longer on this Earth.”

The ceremony will take place at GGT's memorial Serenity Garden at the Suffolk County Environmental Center at the Scully Estate, located at 550 South Bay Avenue in Islip.

By Jade Eckardt | source