By Chris Mellides
A weeklong drug prevention and awareness campaign ended last Friday, with officials declaring the campaign’s drug take-back program a success.
As a result of the campaign, officials say roughly 40 pounds of prescription medicine was collected, and Suffolk police provided more than 50 community members with Narcan training, which they say is the most efficient way to treat a narcotic overdose.
The week began with members of Northport High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions partnering with police, the Northport-East Northport Drug and Alcohol Task Force, and Suffolk Legislator Wiliam Spencer’s office to offer an open forum at the Northport American Legion Hall, where family members shared their experiences with addiction.
“It’s more than just education. It’s more than awareness. It’s about reaching young people on their level,” Spencer said. “We impact them and are able to give a message of what’s important to them and that’s how we have to do it. And that’s why this program is so successful.”
About 600 Narcan kits were dispensed to the public during the campaign, according to Dr. Scott S. Coyne, the chief surgeon and medical director for the Suffolk County Police Department.
Coyne says that more than 1,200 Suffolk county officers are trained in using Narcan and that the life-saving drug is carried by all of Northport’s patrol units, including highway patrol, the marine bureau, as well as all of the sector cars that report to Northport’s police precincts.
The Suffolk police medical director stresses that while Narcan is effective, to target the larger problem of opioid use across Long Island, more needs to be done.
“We have a multi-pronged approach of enforcement, medical administration of Narcan, and most recently the development of the Ugly Truth program, where we’re trying to educate and prevent those who might otherwise go into an opiate situation and get addicted.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the country is in the midst of a prescription painkiller overdose epidemic.
Northport High School history teacher and SADD advisor Darryl St. George knows the destructive effects that opioids can have on users and their families firsthand. After returning home from serving overseas in the military, St. George’s brother died as a result of an overdose from a combination of Xanax and Suboxone, the latter being a drug prescribed to heroin users hoping to quit.
“Becoming more involved in this cause I learned a number of troubling lessons and one of those being that this is an epidemic,” St. George said. “Annually, we lose 43,000 people to overdoses. That’s more than we’re losing from the combination of firearms and car accidents. We need to do better.”