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County fights back against heroin addiction with new FDA-approved drug in arsenal

By: 
Lisa Finn
Publication: 
Riverhead Local
Jan
13
2015

Suffolk County has announced new ammunition in the war against heroin addiction.
On Monday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced today a new, countywide model to provide residents with an alternative to combat heroin and other opiate abuse with the introduction of the FDA-approved drug, extended-release naltrexone, along with enhanced substance abuse treatment.
In 2012 and 2013, there were more than 400 opioid related deaths countywide, Bellone said — a scourge that has brought devastation to lives of young and old alike in the area.
“Our police department has appropriately noted that we cannot arrest our way out of the heroin and opiate epidemic that has affected our nation and our county,” Bellone said. “We need to come up with long-term and sustainable solutions. That is why Suffolk County has created a multi-pronged approach to addressing heroin and opiate use and abuse. With the support from various private and public stakeholders, our goal is to save additional lives and reduce the number of substance abuse addictions right here in Suffolk County.”
Bellone was joined by and Assistant Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Timothy Sini, along with the Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, Suffolk County Department of Health Services and the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug and Dependency.
“This administration has made it a priority to explore and launch new, evidence-based tools in combating the heroin and opiate epidemic,” Sini said. “We will continue to create new and innovative ways to address this issue. And we will continue to work with the various county agencies, community groups, and providers to raise awareness and facilitate access to this treatment model to those who need it the most.”
Bellone organized a working group led by Sini to identify key areas where the FDA-approved drug can be provided when necessary, including for those who are enrolled in the Suffolk County drug court program, defendants on Suffolk County probation, residents who have been saved by Narcan, inmates released from local jails who have an opioid addiction, and individuals who may be suffering from addiction.
“I applaud the comprehensive action that our County Executive is putting forward,” said Legislator William ‘Doc’ Spencer. “There are troubling statistics that are out there that indicate that nearly one person a day is dying on Long Island due to substance abuse and opioid addiction.”
“This (partnership) is how you quell a health epidemic,” Steven Chassman, Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, said. “Physically, psychologically and socially, the disease of opiate dependency is taking a toll on Long Islanders at a rate that we have not before seen.”
Most recently, Suffolk County launched a Narcan pilot program, which provided various licensed health care professionals and emergency service responders with the drug, Narcan, to help save lives.
Suffolk County also administers a state-registered opioid overdose prevention program, having conducted over 65 classes and training 1,763 non-traditional responders, including town and village police, probation officers, school district personnel and the general public. In 2014, the county also provided more than 120 licensed physicians with new training regarding prescription drugs and narcotics to identify potential misuse or overuse.