The opioid crisis continues to hit closer and closer to home. Recently, a special-education teacher in the Bronx was found dead in a bathroom stall – narcotics and needle in hand. The cause of his death was declared an overdose of fentanyl. Long Island is no stranger to the fatal effects of fentanyl use. Heroin was once the number one killer on the Island, but in the last two years, fentanyl has been the leading cause of opiate overdoses.
Prior to the death of the 36-year-old school teacher, Matthew Azimi, legislation was already being presented to the city to require that naloxone be available at all public schools. Naloxone, commonly known by its brand-name Narcan, is a medication that can reverse an overdose and potentially save the life of a student, teacher, or staff member if we require that all schools have Narcan at the ready.
This bill was introduced by councilman Rafael Salamanca who stated that, “We’ve seen too many overdoses related to opioids this year, and overdose numbers continue to rise alarmingly amongst teens and young persons in particular.” He’s very right. From 2014 to 2015, the rate of drug overdoses in teens rose 19% and has continued to grow each year.
Because fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and easy to produce in bulk, it is inexpensive and being purchased by drug dealers who either peddle it off as heroin and pressed pills or cut heroin with it. Fentanyl is also extremely dangerous because only small amounts of the drug are needed to cause an overdose. An influx of fentanyl deaths on Long Island and around the nation has shown us that it is appearing more and more in our street narcotics.
Councilman Salamanca later went on to say, “This is a tragic problem, and any solution we have to help prevent overdoses, particularly through the use of naloxone, should be implemented.” Matthew Azimi’s life could have been saved had Narcan been readily available at Public School X811. We cannot change what happened that day, but we can look forward as a community and work towards preventing another tragedy like this from happening.