HAUPPAUGE, NY – On Tuesday, December 29th, 2020, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and the members of the Suffolk County Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel announced the release of their 2020 final report, which includes a detailed outline of the panel’s actions and findings of the past year, goals for the new year, beneficial Suffolk County resources, and links to other reports pertaining to the heroin and opioid epidemic. 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.
This year the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to increased challenges for all governmental and community agencies throughout our county including overwhelmed hospitals fighting on the frontline, addiction rates skyrocketing with limited resources and economic uncertainty due to business disruption, said Legislator Sarah Anker.
The unpredictability of this pandemic has led to increased addiction throughout the country. Working collaboratively as a panel allows us to combine our experience, resources and understanding to address the growing epidemic. It is our hope that this final report will serve as a reference for those seeking resources and provide a foundation for other municipalities to continue their work in battling the epidemic as well.
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 affected by substance use disorders. The ever-evolving nature of the opioid epidemic requires continuous commitment to identifying new resources, additional funding sources, and effective ways of educating the public about addiction.
As a panel, elected officials, governmental departments, school representatives, medical professionals, mental health counselors, and non-profit organizations throughout the region work in collaboration to address the many substance use concerns that affect Suffolk County residents. Panel members include representatives from the Suffolk County Legislature, Suffolk County Police Department, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Health Services, local rehabilitation providers, advocacy groups, hospitals, and the Suffolk County Superintendents’ Association.
I must commend Suffolk County’s Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel members, who were quick to adapt and react to the challenges that laid before them this year and have greatly contributed their time and knowledge in addressing the issue of drug addiction and mental health support, said Legislator Sarah Anker.
Through versatility, the panel has continued to make substantial advancements this year. However, the opioid epidemic is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed continuously from all fronts.
Since the establishment of the permanent Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel in 2017, Suffolk County has made great progress in combating the opioid epidemic through education, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, law enforcement, legislation and legal action. Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, Suffolk County panel members were able to continue operating their programs that have aided in the fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic utilizing telehealth options, social distancing and adjusting their procedures to meet COVID-19 safety protocols.
Additionally, throughout the year the panel has drafted letters of support to advocate for full access to telehealth and virtual care options for Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries, request that much needed state funding for treatment and prevention providers and programs not be cut, request that any federal stimulus package include emergency supplemental funds for substance use and mental health disorders service organizations, and request that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)/Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) consider implementing public service campaigns on the railroad related to the dangers of substance use and where to access assistance. The panel is currently drafting a letter to the NYS Department of Health to request additional training and education in medical schools in the area of pain management.
Among the panel’s plans for next year is their plan to initiate regular meetings of the Youth Addiction Panel, which will assemble a group of individuals age 16-25 to complement the work of the Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel. The Youth Addiction Panel will provide a unique perspective on substance use and abuse and also provide insight into developing strategies to reach the intended audience.
Below are recommended priorities of the panel for the upcoming year:
Prioritize childhood trauma intervention;
Support Addiction Prevention Awareness Campaigns;
Monitor the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on overdose rates;
Increase prescriber education;
Create a comprehensive Suffolk County addiction awareness and resource website;
Monitor the growing vaping epidemic;
Support early drug awareness education initiatives;
Monitor potential Marijuana Legislation;
Commence meetings of the Youth Addiction Panel;
Continue discussions with the MTA & LIRR regarding a quality of life task force;
Monitor continuing effects of NYS Bail Reform;
Amend panel name and membership; and
Support education to reduce the stigma of addiction and mental illness.
The Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel’s 2020 final report features comprehensive updates regarding the work of the panel members throughout the year, current available data collected and compiled from the DASH Center, LICADD’s 24/hour hotline, Suffolk County Police Department and the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office, available Suffolk County resources, relevant information about the state of the heroin and opioid epidemic county-wide, state-wide and nationally, current litigation updates, and future plans for the panel. 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.