HAUPPAUGE, NY – On Thursday, January 2, 2020, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and the members of the Suffolk County Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel announced the release of their 2019 final report, which includes a detailed outline of the panel’s actions and findings of the past year, and goals for the new year. The Suffolk County Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel was created via resolution 704-2017 Establishing a Permanent Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel sponsored by Legislator Sarah Anker. Legislator Anker drafted the resolution in response to the growing opioid and substance abuse epidemic in Suffolk County and across the nation.
“Over the past year, the panel has advocated for helping those struggling with addiction. The panel has revised recommendations to aid officials in addressing areas of concern for doctors, health professionals, law enforcement, and addiction counselors across Suffolk County,” said Legislator Anker. “The Advisory Panel’s final report provides insight by surveying hospitals, resource centers, and addiction professionals. The report analyzed police reports to create a solid framework for officials to continue to work proactively in addressing the opioid epidemic. The opioid crisis is one of my top priorities, and I will continue to do everything in my power to address this national epidemic.”
The panel was formed to bring together elected officials, governmental departments, school representatives, medical professionals, mental health counselors, and non-profit organizations throughout the region in a coordinated effort to address the many substance abuse concerns that affect Suffolk County residents. Panel members include representatives from the Legislature, including the Chairs of the Public Safety and Health Committees. The panel also includes representatives from the Suffolk County Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Health Services, as well as local rehabilitation providers, advocacy groups, hospitals, and the Suffolk County Superintendents’ Association.
The panel was established with the goal of providing ongoing guidance and input to the county in combating the opioid epidemic through preventative education, enhancement of law enforcement efforts, and aiding in the treatment and rehabilitation of those addicted to opiates and heroin. The ever-evolving nature of the opioid epidemic requires continuous commitment to identify new resources and additional funding sources, and provide for greater focus on educating the public about addiction.
“The panel recognizes that there is a major focus on implementing many of the recommendations at the local, state, and federal levels. This report will serve as a guideline to assist those in government working to create policy in identifying priorities. While the panel has made substantial advancements in its first year, the opioid epidemic is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed continuously from all fronts,” said Legislator Anker.
Over the course of 2019, Suffolk County saw great progress in combating the opioid epidemic through education and prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, law enforcement, and legislation and legal action. Agencies represented on the panel collaborated to open the DASH (Diagnostic, Assessment, and Stabilization Hub) Center, a 24/7 resource center for individuals in search of treatment and resources. Through the recommendation of the panel, Suffolk County law enforcement agencies purchased a mass spectrometer through asset forfeiture funds – monies seized from drug dealers. The mass spectrometer is a specialized piece of equipment that analyzes the chemical makeup of drugs, helping the police department and the District Attorney take dealers off the street. The county continues to train thousands of residents each year on opioid prevention measures and Narcan usage to help pull an individual out of an overdose until they can receive medical treatment. Suffolk County was one of the first counties in the country to file suit against opioid drug manufacturers. In September 2019, Purdue Pharma LP announced it had reached an agreement for settling the U.S. opioid litigation facing the company. The settlement structure is estimated to provide more than $10 billion of value to address the opioid crisis, nationally.
For the upcoming year, the panel will focus on addressing the following areas:
• The growing vaping epidemic
• Early education initiatives
• Childhood trauma intervention
• Marijuana legislation
• The effects of bail reform
• Establishing a recover high school
• Continuing overdose prevention discussions with the MTA and LIRR
• Increasing prescriber education
• Reducing the stigma of addiction and mental illness
• Collaborating with the Native American Advisory Board
• Establishing a youth committee
The data collected and compiled in the final report by the panel provides a solid foundation for local elected officials and municipal agencies to continue work to address opioid epidemic concerns within their respective districts. The report is available to view on the Suffolk County Legislature’s website: https://www.scnylegislature.us/1057/Heroin-and-Opiate-Epidemic-Advisory-Pane
For more information please contact Legislator Anker’s office at (631) 854-1600.