A group assembled to take on heroin and opioid abuse in New York is going directly to the source to come up with solutions: victims’ loved ones. New York State Senator Thomas Croci (R-Sayville) recently hosted the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction on Long Island in an effort to spread awareness regarding the state’s escalating opiate overdose problem, and to equip citizens with the tools they need to stem overdoses in their communities. The event took place on April 9 and was one of a series of forums scheduled throughout the state to exchange ideas and feedback regarding ways to better deal with the pervasive problem.
New York has become painfully aware of its distinction as a breeding ground for heroin and opioid abuse, specifically Suffolk County, which reported 103 overdoses in 2015 alone and where the current waiting list of addicts to get into a treatment program has grown to over 200 people. The Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid addiction is one more in a series of attempts to educate communities and residents regarding the impact of opiate addiction, and to engage them to do their part in stemming overdoses in their area. Task force Co-Chair Senator Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) reported hearing “countless tragic stories from families who have lost loved ones to heroin and opioid abuse” and insisted that their experiences and testimony has an enormous impact on shaping future efforts.
The task force is a clear indicator that Long Island, in addition to the rest of New York, has officially gotten to a place where it is actively soliciting quality input from all stakeholders to address this deadly and ongoing problem. Legislators, law enforcement and communities are working closer together than ever before to take on this matter, head on. By lawmakers’ own admission, however, it continues to be an uphill battle. Task force member Senator Phil Boyle recently said the fight is “far from over” and reiterated the importance of public meetings in gathering input to direct further action to curbing abuse and addiction.
Officials are seeing more and more that this is an epidemic affecting Long Island and New York residents of every age and cultural background. While Narcan has been affecting in reversing the effects of potentially fatal overdoses, the task force ultimately hopes to identify factors and address the factors that lead to them in the first place.