A groundbreaking partnership in Nassau County will close a long-held treatment gap by providing overdose patients with immediate transportation and admission into residential treatment from the emergency room.

The pilot program, years in the making and announced last month, involves Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, Northwell Health, Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC) and Maryhaven’s New Hope Crisis Center in Freeport. New Hope staff will now be on call to respond directly to hospital emergency rooms to counsel the patient and immediately transport the patient to New Hope to begin treatment.

“They’ll [have] a safe and supportive place to go through withdrawal and to be directed to the next phase of treatment,” Singas said. “Now there will be no delay between the hospital and help.”

In 2018, 123 Nassau residents died of an opioid-related overdose, according to the Nassau County Medical Examiner. There are still 72 cases pending, that may or may not be opioid over-dose-related. In 2017, 184 individuals died of an overdose in Nassau.

While running for District Attorney in 2015, Singas provided $585,000 in criminal asset forfeiture funding to expand New Hope’s services and admission hours to 24/7 coverage. It allowed New Hope to hire a nurse practitioner and psychiatrist to allow admission to patients with underlying mental health issues and to provide medically assisted treatment.

Typically, users who overdose and are revived are stabilized and released from the emergency department because withdrawal is not considered medically life-threatening, according to Singas.

“Typically, the person in crisis is released back into the community during the most violent, painful and difficult throes of withdrawal. This treatment gap leaves many patients on their own, often leading to repeat use that can continue uninterrupted until death,” Singas said. Under this program, “treatment and hope for the future will start immediately,” she added.

“Finally,” said Valerie Labiak of Bellmore. “I remember being in NUMC begging for help, telling them that I couldn’t take [my son, Michael Jr.] home. They gave me the number of a shelter!”

Less than a month later, Michael Labiak was found dead of a heroin overdose at the age of 26.

Now the patient will be assessed to determine the next phase of treatment.

The New Hope staff will assist the patient with any necessary insurance, Medicare or Medicaid paperwork. The patient will remain at New Hope until there is availability in the next program. The average length of stay is seven to 10 days. Nassau University Medical Center has further committed to the efforts to fight the continuing epidemic by making 20 more beds available for detoxing patients. NUMC will also work with Sheriff Vera Fludd to bring the Nassau County Correctional Facility a re-entry program using Vivitrol treatment to prevent relapse in opioid-dependent patients.

“Addiction is a very complex and painful condition that continues to overwhelm families in our local communities, as well as law enforcement and medical professionals who are tasked with providing answers,” says Northwell Health President and CEO Michael J. Dowling. “New Hope will serve as a bridge to treatment for patients in our emergency departments who are struggling with addiction. It’s an important step in our ongoing commitment to alter the course of this crisis.”

For more information on New Hope and other Long Island treatment programs go to heroinprevention.com.

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