By Jano Tantongco
Following input from experts and a year-long string of community forums hosted across New York, a state Assembly task force has released a report that recommends a comprehensive approach to dealing with New York’s heroin epidemic.
The report, issued on Jan. 25 by the Assembly Minority Task Force on Heroin Addiction and Community Response, states that in 2014 there were over 118,000 admissions to heroin and opioid treatment programs, a 17.8-percent increase from 2009.
To alleviate the problem, the report recommends funding be secured for education and prevention efforts at the middle school and high school levels; ensuring treatment facilities have the proper training to implement detoxification and rehabilitation, as well as long-term planning to prevent relapse; and penalties be stiffer for drug dealers.
Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-South Huntington), who helped host the Long Island community forum at Walt Whitman High School last September, said Wednesday, “Over the past several years, we’ve seen a spike of people having overdoses.
“We certainly saw it occur across Long Island… I saw it first hand in the nine years I served on the South Huntington School Board.”
Lupinacci said he and his colleagues in the assembly plan to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that will address the recommendation made in the task force’s report, which is available at goo.gl/iQkMtx.
“Too many families on Long Island have fallen victim to addiction and tragedy,” Lupinacci stated in a release. “It’s time we take a stand against this epidemic.”
Suffolk’s police department and legislature have also announced new movement on the drug-prevention front.
Suffolk Police Acting Commissioner Tim Sini and Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), announced Saturday a new initiative that’s intended to crack down on drug dealing by targeting “drug houses.”
Suffolk plans to have Special Operations Team detectives collaborate with residents to determine who is dealing and where it’s taking place. Detectives will then execute search warrants to make felony arrests.
The initiative has already seized 464 grams of heroin, among other drugs, guns and other drug paraphernalia, police said.
Locally, community leaders joined the battle on Tuesday with a Narcan training event hosted at Half Hollow Hills High School East.
Narcan is an easily administered heroin overdose-reversing drug. The Assembly task force report recommends that it be stocked in police departments throughout the state, and that police officers and EMTs be trained to administer the drug. Narcan is currently used in all Suffolk police precincts.
At Tuesday’s training Suffolk County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Caplan said prescription medications are a major gateway to heroin use. Four out of five heroin users start by abusing prescription opioids, he said.
Second Precinct School Community Resource Officer Andrew Fiorillo listed various street names for heroin, like “smack,” “good H” and “China White,” a term commonly used in Suffolk. He stressed that parents must familiarize themselves with these terms to be vigilant in preventing use.
“Parents, your kids’ business is your business,” Fiorilla said. “If you hear that stuff, then you need to get help. We have agencies here… to assist us to stop our kids from falling prey to this horrific drug.”
At the end of the training presentation, participants were able to practice on mannequins to administer Narcan, which is sprayed into the nasal passages.
After going through the training, Patrick Murphy, director of health and physical education for Half Hollow Hills, called it “excellent.”
He said, “They were very specific, informative, the hands-on piece was the best part of the whole program.”