Fighting Back Against The Opioid Epidemic


October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, a time to acknowledge and confront the enormity of the substance abuse issue and its impact on the lives of the people living here in Suffolk County, and continue the hard work of prevention.

Addiction can destroy lives and it does not discriminate. Substance abuse and dependence wreak havoc on families everywhere — and Suffolk is no exception.

The good news is that substance abuse can be prevented and that addiction is treatable. In Suffolk, we understand that neither of these comes easily.

Substance abuse problems include both alcohol and drugs. It can be an expensive problem from a county perspective, in terms of law enforcement, rehabilitation, legal fees, health care and more. But in personal terms, substance abuse can be far more costly.

This is why Suffolk is so deeply committed to doing everything we possibly can to prevent substance abuse. The county is leading New York State in a landmark lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin. Suffolk hopes to not only recoup funds spent addressing the wreckage caused by the opioid epidemic, but to actually curtail its influence by targeting Purdue Pharma’s misleading marketing practices.

The county Department of Health Services has put together a comprehensive approach to combating substance abuse from myriad angles centered on education, including programs targeted to the public, in schools, in correctional facilities and for both residents and physicians.

In addition, Suffolk has implemented workshops designed to train residents in using Narcan™ (naloxone, an opiate antidote) to prevent opioid overdoses. Since the inception of the county’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Program in 2013, the health department has trained 11,256 nontraditional responders, each of whom received a Narcan™ kit. Residents on the scene of an overdose become equipped to act as first responders, with the capability to save lives.

Suffolk’s upcoming DASH program, a Diagnostic, Assessment & Stabilization Hub to be operated by Family Service League, will open this December to provide licensed and credentialed professional care 24/7 for individuals suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders.

We have enacted a multitude of strategies to combat substance abuse, including public service announcements and partnering with the Long Island Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (LICADD) to operate a 24/7 hotline to link callers to appropriate treatment.

We have a lot of work to do to prevent substance abuse and addiction. In Suffolk, we’re committing to this work together.