LONG ISLAND ADDICTED

The opioid epidemic is exploding on Long Island with overdoses claiming a record number of lives in the area. The startling statistics in this community are contributing to a nationwide crisis. Nassau County Executive, Laura Curran, is here with the details on the problem and an update on the fight to end addiction on Long Island.

Aired on March 15, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

GOOD EVENING AND WE 'METROFOCUS,' I'M RAFAEL P.

RAMON.

ACCORDING TO RECENT NUMBERS FROM THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL, OVERDOSES FROM OPIODS JUMP BY 30% IN JUST ONE YEAR.

OVERDOSES ARE UP ACROSS EVERY AGE GROUP AND IN EVERY REGION OF THE COUNTRY, INCLUDING OURS.

LONG ISLAND HAS BEEN HIT ESPECIALLY HARD.

ACCORDING TO OFFICIAL REPORTS, ABOUT 600 LONG ISLANDERS DIED FROM OPIOD OVERDOSES LAST YEAR ALONE.

ONE COMMUNITY AT THE HEART OF THE CRISIS IN LONG ISLAND IS MASSAPEQUA IN NASSAU COUNTY.

AND FUJOINING ME NOW IS NASSAU COUNTY EXECUTIVE LAURA P. HEARN TO TALK TO US ABOUT THE PROBLEM.

ARE YOU SURPRISED ABOUT OPIOD OVERDOSES ON LONG ISLAND, PARTICULARLY IN YOUR COUNTY?

WE REALLY DO HAVE A EPIDEMIC, LAST YEAR WE HAD NEARLY 300 OVERDOSES AND 200 OF THEM WERE FATAL.

IF WE HAD THAT MANY PEOPLE GETTING MURDERED IN OUR COUNTY, THERE WOULD BE SUCH OUTRAGE.

SO LET'S TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE SOLUTIONS, YOU HAVE RECENTLY INTRODUCED A PROGRAM CALLED O.D. MAP.

TELL US WHAT THAT IS AND HOW IT'S HELPING TO DEAL WITH THIS CRISIS.

SURE.

OUR POLICE COMMISSIONER PATRICK RIDER CAME ONE THIS O.D. MAP.

AND IT BASICALLY TARGETING CRIMES ASSOCIATED WITH DRUG USE, LIKE CAR BREAK INS, ROBBERIES AND WHEN YOU HAVE A CLUSTER OF THOSE KINDS OF EVENTS HAPPENING, OVERDOSES AND LARCENIES, YOU KNOW YOU'VE GOT A PROBLEM THERE.

AND SO WE'RE BRINGING OUR POLICE FORCE IN TO -- WE'RE WORKING ON AWARENESS AND TREATMENT AS WELL.

AND WE'RE WORKING VERY HARD ON FILLING A TREATMENT GAP.

BECAUSE SOMEONE CAN BE TREATED WITH A MEDICINE CALLED NARCAN FROM AN OVERDOSE.

AND THEN THERE'S NO TREATMENT.

THEY'RE PUT RIGHT BACK ON THE STREET TO START USING AGAIN.

GOING BACK TO O.D. MAP, TO WHAT DEGREE DOES THAT GO TO LAW ENFORCEMENT AND ARRESTS, TO WHAT DEGREE DOES THAT DEAL WITH THE TREATMENT YOU SAY IS NECESSARY?

THAT'S SUCH A GREAT QUESTION.

WE HAVE HAD AN OPPORTUNITY, TWO SO FAR, ONE IN MASSAPEQUA, THERE WERE ABOUT 60 ARRESTS, DRUG RELATED ARRESTS, OF THOSE, FOUR WERE DEALERS, SO THEY WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

THOSE USERS, THOSE ADDICTS, ONCE THEY'RE ARRESTED, WE CAN STEER THEM TOWARDS DIVERSION AND TREATMENT, SO THAT'S WHERE THE HEALTH PROFESSIONALS COME IN.

LAST WEEK WE HAD AN OP-ED, AND YOU'RE DOING A GREAT JOB, AND MORE TREATMENT, MORE RESOURCES ARE NECESSARY.

ARE YOU GETTING THE NECESSARY RESOURCES FROM THE STATE, FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO DEAL WITH THIS IN NASSAU COUNTY?

WE HAVE TO HARNESS THE RESOURCES WE HAVE AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW, MAKE THE MOST OF WHAT WE HAVE GOT.

WE HAVE TO REALLY ENGAGE IN OUR SCHOOLS.

AND THAT'S THE CONVERSATION WE'RE HAVING NOW.

IN NASSAU, WE HAVE 56 INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICTS, THEY'RE THEIR OWN ENTITIES, SO WE'RE ENGAGING WITH EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM TO TRY AND TACKLE THIS CRISIS.

SO THIS CRISIS, THE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS SAID, IT IS PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT TO HIM, HAS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN FACT DEMONSTRATED THAT THIS IS A CRISIS AND HELP YOUSU SUFFICIENTLY?

WE ARE WORKING WITH THE STATE, BUT WE'RE ALSO WORKING VERY CLOSELY WITH OUR COMM COMMU COMMUNITIES.

SO WE'RE HAVING COMMUNITY FORUMS, WE HAD ONE IN MASSAPEQUA WHERE SCORES OF RESIDENTS TURNED OUT.

THEY'RE LISTENING TO OUR POLICE OFFICERS, THEY'RE LISTENING TO OUR DRUG RESOURCE EXPERTS.

GETTING THEM THE INFORMATION THEY NEED, SO WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS, THOSE PIN PRICK PUPILS, FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE ON OPIODS.

BECAUSE ALL TOO OFTEN A CHILD HAS DIED AND THE PARENT NEVER YOU THEIR CHILD WAS USING, OR THEIR FRIENDS KNEW BUT NEVER TOLD.

SO WE'RE REALLY TRYING TO GET PEOPLE TO BE AWARE AND THAT'S THE EDUCATION PIECE.

WHAT'S MAKING THIS CRISIS PARTICULARLY DEADLY, WHAT'S KILLING PEOPLE IS THIS SYNTHETIC OPIOD, FENTANYL.

FENTANYL IS MANY TIMES STRONGER THAN HEROIN AND MORE PURE, AND THAT'S WHY WE'RE SEEING THE SPIKE IN OVERDOSES.

THE NARCAN, IS A GOD SEND BECAUSE IF SOMEONE'S OVERDOSING, YOU CAN TREAT THEM WITH NARCAN, THEY'RE BACK IMMEDIATELY.

BUT IF THEY DON'T HAVE THE TREATMENT PART, THEY GO BACK IMMEDIATELY.

SOME SAY THERE'S AN UNINTENDED NEGATIVE ASPECT TO NARCON BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE THAT IT WILL SAVE THEM FROM AN OPIOD DEATH, AND THAT MAKES THEM EASE UP ON THE CONCERNS.

ARE YOU FINDING THAT?

ABSOLUTELY.

YOU HEAR ABOUT THESE INCIDENTS, THESE ANECDOTES OF PEOPLE GETTING TOGETHER, THEY'RE DOING HEROIN, OR FENTANYL OR WHATEVER IT IS, AND THERE'S NARCAN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TABLE THERE, SO THEY CAN TREAT THEM AND GO RIGHT ON TO PARTYING AGAIN.

IT'S A PROBLEM.

IT'S A REAL DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD.

IT A GOD SEND, BECAUSE IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE AND PUT YOU ON THE RIGHT PATH.

BUT WE'RE HEARING FROM OUR POLICE OFFICERS AND OUR FIREFIGHTERS, ALL OF OUR FIRST RESPONDERS ARE TRAINED IN HOW TO USE THIS.

SO YOU OVERDOSE ON FRIDAY, YOU OVERDOSE ON SATURDAY, BY SUNDAY YOU'RE USING AGAIN AND BY MONDAY YOU'RE DEAD.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

IS THIS CRISIS GOING TO GET WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER?

I THINK WE ARE A HOLD OF IT.

WE ARE HAPPY WITH THE POLICE COMMISSIONER MAKING THIS MAP, TO REALLY ZERO IN, HOLD THE DEALERS ACCOUNTABLE AND GET THE ADDICTS THE TREATMENT THEY NEED TO GET THEM OUT OF THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF ADDICTION.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY, IT BEEN AN IMPORTANT CONVERSATION.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019