SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY - Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and the members of the Suffolk County Addiction Prevention and Support Advisory Panel, announced the release of their 2022 final report, which includes a detailed outline of the panel’s actions and findings of the past year, beneficial Suffolk County resources and programs, links to other reports pertaining to the growing opioid and substance abuse epidemic, and goals for the new year. The panel was created by the resolution, the panel meets on a quarterly basis, conducts two public hearings and compiles a final report that is posted on the Suffolk County Legislature’s website.
“The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s reports that between November 27th, 2021 and November 27th, 2022, there were an increase in overdose deaths from the previous year. During 2022, we saw record overdose deaths nationally, contributing to a drop in American life expectancy, with the CDC reporting that this is largely due to a flooding of street fentanyl. Suffolk County, on the other hand, showed a slight decrease in overdose deaths, likely due to Narcan saves,” said Legislator Anker. “Due to Suffolk County’s aggressive initiation of lawsuits against drug companies and distributers, the county has the potential of acquiring upwards of 250 million dollars in settlement funding. These funds have the potential to have a sizable impact on current and future initiatives, and must be used for education, prevention and treatment. The Panel continues to work collaboratively, combining their experience, resources and understanding to help address the growing opioid addiction epidemic during this unprecedented time. It is our hope that this final report, detailing the work of the county and its partners, 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 goal of the panel is to utilize collective knowledge and expertise to provide ongoing guidance and input to the county with respect to combating the addiction epidemic through preventative education, enhancement of law enforcement efforts, and aiding in the treatment and rehabilitation of those affected by substance use disorders. The panel includes, elected officials, government departments, school representatives, medical professionals, mental health counselors, advocates and non-profit organizations, who work in collaboration to address the many substance misuse concerns that affect Suffolk County residents.
“I commend the dedicated panel members who have continued to offer their personal and professional experience to develop new, effective and innovative ways to combat the opioid and substance use epidemic in our county,” said Legislator Anker. “Whether it was through advocating for all Narcan kits distributed by the Suffolk County Department of Health to include fentanyl strips, advocating for increased prescriber education, or developing awareness campaigns that expanded education and treatment, these important initiatives have helped provide much needed support and access to those struggling with addiction. Despite these advancements and progress, addiction is an on-going issue that needs to be addressed continually.”
We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to create increased challenges for all government and community agencies throughout our county including overwhelmed hospitals fighting this pandemic on the frontline, addiction rates increasing with limited resources and economic uncertainty due to business disruption. Relapse has increased partly due to the availability of synthetic fentanyl, staffing shortages of mental health facilities and limited teleconferencing access for those in need of treatment. Mental health related service providers from across the county have experienced firsthand the increased number of those seeking support as a result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a traumatic strain on not only residents struggling with addiction, but all government departments, hospitals and not-for-profit support organizations that provide assistance. This continues as many providers experience burnout and fatigue.
Since the establishment of the 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. During the past year, the panel advocated for the creation a more user friendly and comprehensive website for addiction and mental health resources in Suffolk County. The website, www.suffolkstopaddiction.org, was launched last year and will act as a comprehensive resource providing easy access to information regarding treatment options, where to go in an emergency and other pertinent information.
Additionally, the panel also supported resolutions that pertain to the way funds will be disbursed from the settlement agreements reached in lawsuits, which prioritizes utilizing the funds to expand and support new and existing programs and organizations who provide education, prevention and treatment services related to combating the rise in addiction, which generated the litigation.
Below are recommended priorities of the panel for the upcoming year:
- Disbursement of settlement funds to education, prevention and treatment programs;
- Prioritize childhood trauma intervention;
- Support addiction prevention awareness campaigns, especially those targeted towards young people;
- Monitor the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on overdose rates;
- Monitor effects on new CDC prescriber guidance;
- Continue to monitor the vaping epidemic;
- Support early addiction awareness education initiatives;
- Advocate for new initiatives related to the NYS Marijuana Legislation and its effects;
- Advocate for changes to NYS Bail Reform and request a study of policy change outcomes;
- Support education to reduce the stigma of addiction and mental health;
- Develop and organize a campaign to encourage residents to exchange their expired naloxone kits for new kits;
- Expand education about the NYS Good Samaritan Law and ensure the law is on or in every Narcan® kit distributed in Suffolk County; and
- Continue to advocate for increased naloxone availability on public transportation.
The 2022 final report of the Addiction Prevention and Support Advisory Panel features comprehensive updates regarding the work of the panel members throughout the year current available data collected and compiled from the DASH (Diagnostic, Assessment and Stabilization Hub) Center, LICADD’s 24/hour hotline (631-979-1700), Suffolk County Police Department and the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office, available Suffolk County programs and resources, including the 2022 Suffolk County Directory of Behavioral Health Services, current litigation updates, and recommendations from the panel. The report will be available to view on the Suffolk County Legislature’s website: https://www.scnylegislature.us/1057/Addiction-Prevention-and-Support-Advisor. For more information please contact Legislator Anker’s office at (631) 854-1600.