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Fatal ODs Spike 40% in Nassau Amid Pandemic

opioid epidemic

Fatal overdoses are up 40 percent in Nassau County since the pandemic began, according to police reports of suspected overdoses. Non-fatal overdoses increased by 7 percent this year, Nassau police said.

As of May 15 of this year, 57 Nassau residents died from overdoses and there were another 186 non-fatal overdoses. The same time period last year saw 34 fatal and 173 non-fatal overdoses.

As Long Island begins to reopen, advocates in the field of substance abuse treatment and prevention say the spike in drug overdose deaths likely culminated from joblessness, stress, and isolation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the Press reported that Suffolk County has seen a 43 percent increase in fatal overdoses since the pandemic began, according to police reports of suspected overdoses. Non-fatal overdoses increased by 19 percent this year.

Cindy Wolff, executive director of Tempo Group, an addiction treatment center in Nassau, called the numbers of overdose deaths “staggering.” 

“It would be hard to say exactly why this is, but I would suspect that as our state and nation struggle with coping with this global pandemic, more people are isolating and possibly turning to substances to cope and perhaps their use has increased during this time, lending to the increase in overdoses,” she said. 

The increase in overdoses on Long Island comes months after officials in both Nassau and Suffolk reported a downturn in fatal overdoses of between 18 percent and 24 percent from 2018 to 2019.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran did not respond to requests for comment but Omayra Pérez, director of community services in Nassau’s Department of Human Services, released a statement last month saying the county, more than ever, “is cognizant of the struggles that many families are enduring” in the midst of the state’s stay-at-home orders.

“Nassau County has not forgotten about the many families dealing with mental health and addiction challenges especially during COVID-19,” Perez said in a statement released to the Press. “As a result, the county’s 227-Talk Helpline is fully operational providing crisis counseling and referrals to mental health and addiction providers. In addition, the county’s mental health and addiction providers are offering on-site and virtual services which include Medication Assisted Treatment Services for those individuals struggling with opioid addiction.”

Wolff, who heads one of the county’s treatment providers, said “the support  our agencies have continued to  provide our  communities, currently and in the future, are and will be incredibly important as we all try to cope during the pandemic and post pandemic.”

But Wolff, who also co-chairs the Nassau Alliance for Addiction Services, said that fears around COVID-19 and exposure to the illness might be keeping individuals from seeking help.

“It’s important to let them know that almost all Nassau agencies remain open, albeit in different capacities telehealth and remote services but we are here and offering services, that does also include inpatient/residential services,” she said.

“With that said, we fear the future of funding and budget cuts,” Wolff added. “We know that with the impact on the economy, especially in NY state, funding for services for [substance use disorder] education, prevention and treatment could be in jeopardy, and especially at a time that we are needed the most. The mental health ramifications of this national trauma will need to be dealt with and we need to keep funding and possibly see it grow to address these growing needs.”

FOR HELP

New York State has set up a COVID-19 emotional support helpline 1-844-863-9314 that is available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week. 

People can also call New York State’s addiction service’s hotline: 1-877-8-HOPE-NY.

In Nassau, one can also access the 24/7 helpline at 516-227-TALK (8255) for help finding local resources in mental health, chemical dependency, COVID-19 related inquiries, food resources, bereavement, domestic violence, and legal issues.

For a directory of licensed substance abuse treatment programs in Nassau, visit nassaualliance.org

Those individuals in need of immediate addiction services may contact the Nassau County Opioid Treatment Program located at 2201 Hempstead Tpke., Building K, East Meadow, or call 516-572-5906 or 516-572-6305.  

Nassau residents can also access available treatment resources by downloading the Nassau CARES App. 

Also, Narcan Kits and training on using them, are available to Nassau County residents for free.  Below is a list of organizations who you can contact to obtain a kit:

CNG: 516-822-6211

Community Action for Social Justice: sguillaime@nysocialjustice.org

EDNY: 516-481-0052

Kassler Foundation: 516-297-2481 GarrettsProject@yahoo.com

LICADD: 516-765-7600

NCDHS: 516-227-7023david.hymowitz@hhsnassaucountyny.us

Town of Hempstead: 516-897-4110, davineu@tohmail.org

YES CCC: 516-799-3203 x113, info@yesccc.org

Related Story: Coronavirus Causing Spike in ODs on Long Island

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Pandemic Isolation Sparks Suicide Concerns in Recovery Community

Addiction and isolation are a recipe for disaster. (Getty Images)

In August 2018, Richie G. found himself depressed, full of fear, anxiety, and self-pity, despite being clean from drugs and alcohol for 16 years. 

He had begun shying away from self-help meetings, his business went bankrupt, his house went into foreclosure, the bills were way behind, and he was borrowing money from whomever he could. 

“I was so full of shame and guilt that I thought my only way out was to kill myself,” he tells the Press. “Suicide, I thought, was my only option to be rid of facing everyone and dealing with all the deception.”

Richie did not confide his feelings in anyone. 

“I just kept going, as if everything was good,” he says. “If someone asked me how I was doing, my answer would always be the same … terrific. “

Richie says he believes God intervened in his life. One day as he was driving, and the suicidal thoughts became overwhelming, something compelled him to pull his car to the side of the road and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

“I wound up calling them on three different days and each time they helped me get through another day,” he recalls. “I will forever be grateful.”

Richie says he started making 12-step meetings regularly again in January 2020. Since then, he has had no thoughts about suicide and feels like he never left the self-help program. 

“I’m at peace with all of my demons and progressing in my recovery one day at a time,” he says. “I now have an even bigger support group. I call more fellow members and help more newcomers than ever before. On September 3, 2020, I will have 18 years clean.” 

He is not alone in his struggles.

A U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) report shows that in 2018, more than 10 million adults aged 18 or older thought seriously about trying to kill themselves. More than 1.2 million Americans attempted suicide in 2018, according to the American Association of Suicidology; Of that, 48,344 completed suicide. The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men.

That same year, 100 people in Suffolk and 90 in Nassau took their own lives. 

Experts say substance use is the second most frequent risk factor for suicide; mood disorders and depression — which many are experiencing because of the coronavirus pandemic — are the most frequent.

Meryl Cassidy, executive director of Response Crisis Center, told the Press the 24/7 center has seen more than a 25 percent increase in calls and live “chats” from people expressing suicidal thoughts since the COVID pandemic began. 

Cassidy, who also co-chairs the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Long Island, said the biggest increases were seen in their chat program, due perhaps to the increased privacy that chat offers while people are sheltering in place. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline routes calls to local centers. In Suffolk County, calls go to the Response Center Center and in Nassau they are sent to the Long Island Crisis Center (LICC).

Joe Walsh, the LICC’s director, suggested that people should be aware of the connection between addiction and suicide risk. 

“Research tells us that those diagnosed with a substance use disorders have a suicide risk several times higher than the general population,” Walsh told the Press. “That is why we want people to know that it’s always okay to ask for help for themselves or for someone they love. No matter what issues someone may be facing … sometimes hope and healing begin with a single conversation.”

Suicide prevention advocates offer suggestions for those who think a loved one is experiencing suicidal ideation: talk to them in private, listen to their story, let them know you care about them, ask directly if they are thinking about suicide, and encourage them to seek treatment or contact their doctor or therapist. Avoid debating the value of life, minimizing their problems, or giving advice.

Richie G. hopes that sharing his experience will benefit others who are contemplating suicide. 

“I would tell them what the Suicide Hotline people told me, which was ‘to open up to my loved ones — as hard as it might be — because the love that I’d get in return is so rewarding,’” he says. 

HELP BOX 

During times of uncertainty, it is important to practice self-care, experts say. Try not to listen to news about the coronavirus too much. Turn off the TV, do some deep breathing, listen to some music, take a walk, etc. If you need any support, crisis counselors are available 24/7 to provide free and confidential help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-talk (8255) or text HOME to 741741 or for live chat visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat

Long Island Crisis Center’s hotline 516-679-1111.

Response Crisis Hotline 631-751-7500.

If you or someone else is in any immediate danger, call 911 immediately.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website: afsp.org

Suicide Prevention Coalition of America website: preventsuicideli.org

Related Story: Drug Rehabs Help Battle Coronavirus Pandemic While Still Facing The Opioid Crisis

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Coronavirus Causing Spike in ODs on Long Island

opioid epidemic

Overdoses are spiking on Long Island due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has reversed progress that the region made in fighting the opioid crisis amid joblessness, stress, and isolation were brought on by COVID-19, data shows.

Fatal overdoses are up 43 percent in Suffolk County since the pandemic began, with 42 residents dying just in the last four weeks, according to police reports of suspected overdoses. Non-fatal overdoses increased by 19 percent this year, Suffolk police said. Nassau County only released the number of non-fatal overdoses for 2020, which are up by eight percent this year, police said. 

“This is a huge concern of ours,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. “We talk about a crisis like this and the impact that it has, the emotional impact, the financial impact, just the stress that it causes. It is not a good situation for people who are dealing with addiction issues.”

The statistics show that overdoses claimed the lives of 116 Suffolk residents between January 1 and May 10, compared to 81 residents who died of overdoses during the same time period last year. These numbers only include Suffolk’s five western towns and not the five East End towns.

Research released this week by the California-based public health foundation Well Being Trust found that as many as 75,000 Americans could die because of drug or alcohol misuse and suicide because of the pandemic unless access to mental health care and community support are improved. 

“The growing unemployment crisis, economic downturns and stress caused by isolation and lack of a definitive end date for the pandemic could significantly increase the so-called ‘deaths of despair,’” the researchers wrote.

The increase in overdoses on LI comes just weeks after officials in both Nassau and Suffolk reported decreases in fatal overdoses of between 18 percent and 24 percent from 2018 to 2019.

A Nassau official said in a statement to the Press that they do not yet have data on fatal overdoses for 2020 but preliminary data from the medical examiner’s office does not indicate a rise. Treatment and recovery advocates overwhelmingly disagree, telling the Press that anecdotally they are seeing many more fatal overdoses in the last few weeks in both counties.

“The mental health ramifications of this national trauma will need to be dealt with and we need to keep funding and possibly see it grow in order to address these growing needs,” said Cindy Wolff, executive director of Tempo Group, an addiction treatment center in Nassau.

Omayra Pérez, director of community services in Nassau’s Department of Human Services, said the county, more than ever, “is cognizant of the struggles that many families are enduring” in the midst of the state’s stay-at-home orders.

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini told the Press that since he was first made aware of the increase, his office have been raising awareness about the issue and increasing outreach to those identified as having substance use disorder either before they get into the legal system, once they’re already in the court system, or when they’re in jail and trying to connect those individuals to treatment. Bellone said the county is leaning on its partnerships with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and its 24/7 diagnostic center DASH.

Sini, a former police commissioner, said he has found that preliminary police data has usually been close to the medical examiner’s statistics, which are based on toxicology reports from autopsies performed on suspected overdose victims.

“We’re trying to touch those suffering with substance use disorder at each juncture … and offer as many resources as we can,” Sini said. “As for the supply side, the pandemic is certainly affecting what we do, but we’re adapting.”

WHERE TO GET HELP

If you or a loved one in Suffolk is suffering with a substance use issue, you can call the Suffolk County hotline at 631-979-1700 for assistance.

People can also call New York State’s addiction service’s hotline: 1-877-8-HOPENY.

NY has set up a COVID-19 emotional support helpline 1-844-863-9314 which is available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week. 

In Nassau, one can also access the 24/7 helpline at 516-227-TALK (8255) for help finding local resources in mental health, chemical dependency, Covid-19 related inquiries, food resources, bereavement, domestic violence, and legal issues.

For a directory of licensed substance abuse treatment programs in Nassau, visit nassaualliance.org

-With Timothy Bolger

Related Story: Drug Rehabs Help Battle Coronavirus Pandemic While Still Facing The Opioid Crisis

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Drug Rehabs Help Battle Coronavirus Pandemic While Still Facing The Opioid Crisis

Hospital-based drug rehab beds are now being used to treat coronavirus patients. (Getty Images)

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has not been lost on Long Island’s addiction and recovery community, which has banded together to support each other during social isolation, job loss, and less access to treatment and support. 

At the direction of the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (NYS OASAS) several hospital-based treatment programs turned their detox and rehabilitation beds into beds for COVID-19 patients. To protect health and safety, most outpatient counseling providers are no longer holding face-to-face counseling sessions and self-help groups were forced to temporarily close their doors.

“For people in the grips of active addictions, usage escalated,” says Anthony Rizzuto, LMSW, CASAC and director of provider relations at Seafield Center in Westhampton Beach. “We were seeing more overdoses, more people trying to get into treatment, and the availability of treatment beds lessened. In the world of recovery, a lot of people find comfort and solace with fellowship and meetings. Those had been taken away as well.”

The remaining residential treatment programs, such as Seafield Center, continued to accommodate patients with social distancing protocol. Its substance abuse counselors continued to risk their own safety and that of their families to provide these crucial services. Others at Seafield’s outpatient centers continued to counsel patients via telehealth.

“If you don’t have a place to send people who are struggling with substance use disorder, if they remain active, you will have overdoses, car accidents, and hospital and emergency room admissions to add to an already overburdened hospital system,” Rizzuto says.

Recovery-centered groups did their part when support group meetings were closed. Several members of the self-help groups Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous set up online meetings and “speaker jams” to let people know that help and support were a few clicks away.  

“It was very important to me to help get the online meetings set up because I know how we as a community need each other,” says Jillian R., a person in long-term recovery. “I, with the help of others, wanted to make sure everyone had somewhere to go when they needed to get things off their chest.”

The Garrett L Kassler Memorial Fund, started by Lee and Lisa Kassler of Plainview in memory of their 26-year-old son who died from a fentanyl overdose in 2017, is offering financial help through donations collected, to assist those struggling with substance use disorder find access to inpatient, outpatient, medication-assisted treatment, or sober living. 

“The incredible amount of stress and additional anxiety that they are facing makes it even more important for them and their families to know there is additional help available for them,” the couple says.

Bikers Against Heroin, a volunteer organization of bikers and non-riders alike, donated $1,000 for items such as food and toiletries for five Long Island sober homes whose residents were out of work due to the COVID-19 shutdown. 

“During this pandemic we realized that many in recovery who already face financial difficulties would feel the pressure even further,” says Lisa Goodfield, the group’s president. 

Jamie Bogenshutz, licensed clinical social worker and executive director of YES Community Counseling Center in Massapequa and Levittown, said the outpatient counseling center’s efforts went fully remote. 

“We were able to connect with those people who were connected to our agency, and even continue to admit new people who may have been looking for help and support during the [uncertain] time,” she says. “Technology made it possible for us to conduct our groups in an effort to ease the tremendous sense of loneliness and isolation.”

Speaking for her colleagues in the industry, Bogenshutz added: “We are a strong, dedicated, and very committed field with staff who will do whatever it takes to stay alongside those in need.”

Editor’s note: Eden Laikin is a full-time counselor at Seafield Center, and is on the board of the Garrett L Kassler Memorial Fund.

Related Story: THRIVE, A Long Island Recovery Community, Marks Milestone

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Despite Crackdown, Patient Brokers Continue Exploiting Addicts

Patient brokers lure those seeking treatment for substance abuse to unqualified out-of-state drug rehabs. (Getty Images)

A year after New York State made it illegal to financially benefit from referring patients to addiction treatment programs, so-called “patient brokers” have found new ways of targeting desperate customers.

Several years ago, “body brokers” began targeting support groups directly; they were spotted in 12-step meetings for those addicted to drugs and alcohol. Then they made a big splash on social media, where they could reach tenfold more people who are desperately seeking help.

“What’s dangerous is the patient is not comprehensively assessed and placed in a program most suited to meet their needs,” says Claudia Ragni, a credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor who owns Kenneth Peters Center for Recovery in Syosset and is spearheading a crusade to educate parents and officials on spotting these brokers.

She says that brokers have been paid to bring presentations to Long Island public schools, trolling for customers.

“Not all programs are created equal, and in my 35 years’ experience, each program has its own culture and strengths,” she says. “We need to match patients with the right program for optimum success. When a patient is brokered, they are sent to the highest bidder.”

Critics say that these unprofessional, noncredentialed patient brokers are preying on people at their most vulnerable times — targeting them when they don’t know where to turn for help. Ragni likens body brokering to human trafficking.

“These programs are all out of state, and all out of network, and burn through the patient’s insurance so when they return home, they have no insurance to pay for therapeutic support while they reintegrate into the community where the addiction began,” she says. “Legitimate professional programs do not need brokers to fill beds. So, it stands to reason that substandard programs are the ones brokers send people to.”

Body brokers are paid for each person they send to a facility, and they refer their targets to programs offering the highest kickbacks to the patient brokers, say critics, with little regard for the patient’s specific needs.

The tragic death of 20-year-old Jenna Jacobsen of East Islip occurred after she was lured to a Florida rehab when a patient broker paid her airfare, in late April. She disappeared before entering the facility and was found dead nearby on May 30.

In 2017, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) spurred a bipartisan patient brokering bill that was passed by the state legislature and became law in October 2018.

“Vulnerable New Yorkers struggling with addiction are being targeted and falsely promised lifesaving treatment services and then are given inadequate and ineffective treatment at outrageous costs,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at the time.

OASAS also issued a directive that requires patient referrals to be delivered by certified and credentialed professionals, who are prohibited from receiving referral fees.

“New York has strong safeguards that protect those seeking help for addiction from being exploited by unscrupulous people seeking to make a profit,” OASAS spokesperson Evan Frost told the Press. “OASAS is committed to ensuring that New Yorkers who need substance use disorder services are able to receive those services without leaving New York State…”

OASAS is actively investigating several individuals and entities they suspect are involved in patient brokering, he adds. New Yorkers can report suspicious activity by calling 1-800 553-5790 or emailing StopTreatmentFraud@oasas.ny.gov.

With those actions, New York became the latest state to focus on the dark world of patient brokering that often involves shadowy addiction recovery facilities in Florida, Arizona, and California.

TIPS TO SPOT BODY BROKERS
• Reaches out through support groups or social media.
• Asks for your insurance card first thing.
• Buys an insurance policy for you to enter treatment. (This is illegal in 50 states.)
• Offers you money to go to a particular program. (This is illegal in 50 states.)
• Pays for your travel to go to rehab. (This is illegal in 50 states)
• Has you sign a HIPPA release for them and tells you not to speak to your family.
• Says things like: “I work for many places that have proven success rates.” (There are no proven success rates for rehabs.)
• Offers free sober living if you go to the rehab they choose. (This is illegal in 50 states.)
—Source: Claudia Ragni, Kenneth Peters Center for Recovery

HOW TO FIND A REPUTABLE REHAB IN NY
• Go only to an OASAS-licensed treatment provider for a professional assessment of need or referral.
• Call LICADD 516-747-2606 or 631-979-1700 or
• Call the state’s HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).

Prescription Lucemyra: Addicts’ New Hope

opioid epidemic

Rob was plagued by dependence on the opiate painkiller oxycodone for nearly a decade. Each day, the drug dictated when he ate, slept, and worked. When he couldn’t get the drug his body craved, Rob would buy a substitute opiate on the street to keep from going into debilitating withdrawal. 

He saw no way out.

A few months ago, a friend told Rob about Vivitrol, a once-monthly injection that stops cravings for opiates and helps to heal the brain. But Rob was told he needed to be opiate free for about seven days before receiving the slow-release Vivitrol injection or face precipitated withdrawal. He tried on his own to wean himself off the painkillers, but couldn’t do it for long enough.

Then he met a Great Neck neurologist and addiction specialist who was pioneering a new drug to help those addicted to opiates through the harsh withdrawal in the comfort of their home. It’s called Lucemyra and it’s the first and only FDA-approved non-opioid treatment for relief of multiple symptoms of withdrawal. Lucemyra blocks the release into the bloodstream of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that contributes to the withdrawal symptoms.

“Before Lucemyra, patients had to stop using opiates for more than a week and go through severe withdrawal symptoms prior to their first Vivitrol treatment,” Great Beck neurologist Dr. Russell Surasky says. “This is no longer necessary.”

Dr. Surasky says that using Lucemyra in conjunction with other neurologic-based medications can eliminate opiate withdrawal symptoms and allow patients to be treated with Vivitrol just a few days after their last opiate use.

Rob took five days off from work and stayed in bed for the first two. He’s now been clean and on Vivitrol for six months. He said he hasn’t once thought of using opiates.

The severe unrelenting mental distress and physical discomfort of withdrawal is the biggest roadblock people face when trying to stop taking opiates. Detox facilities usually use opiate-based medications such as Suboxone or methadone to wean patients off opioids such as oxycodone or heroin.

Due to the success that Dr. Surasky has had using Lucemyra — the new detox-at-home medication — he has since been hired as a national speaker for the manufacturer, Kentucky-based U.S. WorldMeds. Withdrawal symptoms include full body aches, stomach cramps, profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heart pounding, muscle spasms and unrelenting insomnia.

Massapequa Park pain management and addiction specialist Dr. Thomas Jan is currently using Lucemyra to slowly wean a patient off the opiate pain reliever oxycodone. The patient, Phil, suffered a severe injury eight years ago while working as a healthcare professional. After several surgeries, Phil was left dependent on 60 to 80 milligrams of oxycodone three times a day to ease his pain. 

Secondary health issues caused by the opiates led him to try to wean himself off oxycodone with Suboxone a few years ago. He was unsuccessful. Dr Jan thought Phil would be a perfect candidate for Lucemyra. In 12 weeks, Phil has decreased his oxycodone use by 20 percent, with no side effects. Phil estimates he’ll be completely off the opiates within a year.

“We now have something that is approved by the FDA, is not a controlled substance, and has a very good safety record — especially in light of its track record [since its 1992 approval in Europe],” says Dr. Jan. “Lofexidine (Lucemyra), in conjunction with other medications we use for comfort, can provide significant relief for those suffering from opioid withdrawal.”

LGBT Network: 25 Years of Pride

LGBT Network CEO David Kilmnick led the group's 25th anniversary gala

Twenty-five years ago, David Kilmnick was a student at Stony Brook University writing his master’s thesis on teaching educators how to provide workshops to create safe spaces for gay or lesbian students.

There was no such term as “LGBTQ.” The legality of gay marriage wasn’t even fathomed. The “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the military went into effect that year. Nobody was talking about inclusion in schools and tens of thousands lived in secret — afraid to be themselves — for fear of judgment and ridicule, often even violence.

Today, more than 100 schools on Long Island have Gay Parent-Teacher-Student Associations and dozens of those schools have Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) student clubs. LGBT is a household phrase. Gay marriage is legal in every state.

“In 1993, people said you can’t have an LGBT youth organization on Long Island,” says Kilmnick, who founded the nonprofit Long Island LGBT Network in 2008. “Today, we’re one of the biggest in the country.”

Kilmnick’s organization now operates five community centers for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Woodbury, Patchogue, Bay Shore, the Hamptons, and Long Island City, Queens. Groundbreaking has started on a first-ever affordable housing development for LGBT seniors in Bay Shore.

The nonprofit LGBT Network has made strides in marriage equality and helped with initiatives that have slowed the spread of HIV, worked to combat bullying, develop job and volunteer opportunities, and create safer communities for everyone. It’s helped bring awareness, change, and acceptance in schools and communities not only here, but around the globe, opening doors for thousands of people.

The LGBT Network’s mission statement is that it be a “home and voice for LGBT people, their families, and support systems of Long Island and Queens” and to “help LGBT people to be themselves, stay healthy, and change the world.” 

At its annual gala on October 23, the Network awarded 17 grants to local GSA clubs to support youth-led anti-bullying efforts in schools.

With its advocacy arm, Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth (LIGALY), the LGBT Network “changed the face of Long Island so that LGBT individuals can call Long Island a home no matter where they live, learn, work, play, or pray,” Kilmnick says.

“We’re out there speaking to people all the time,” Kilmnick adds. “We’re opening minds and planting seeds, not just speaking to people who agree.”

In October, the LGBT Network joined with the New York Islanders and the National Hockey League to announce a 2019 Pride Night, as part of the National Coming Out Day Campaign (NCOD). Proceeds from Pride Night ticket sales will support the expansion of the LGBT network’s anti-bullying programs in more than 200 Long Island and New York City schools.

“We have much more work to do,” Kilmnick says. “Many people thought that when marriage equality passed, our work was done. But bias, violence, and safety remain pressing issues for the LGBT community.

“Eighty five percent of LGBT students report daily verbal harassment in schools with one-in-three LGBT students skipping school out of fear of bullying,” he continues. “In the workplace, up to 43 percent of LGBT workers have experienced being discriminated against, denied promotions, or harassed simply for being themselves. Behind each of these statistics is a real person who is someone’s daughter, son, sister, brother, mother, father, family member, friend or coworker.”

LGBT Network Accomplishments

2010: HIV, STI, Pregnancy Prevention initiatives launched

2011: Rallied for Marriage Equality Act

2012: First Long Island Gay Parent-Teacher-Student Association was formed

2012: Launched Living Out, a publication covering LI Life and LGBT culture

2015: First NY MLB Pride Night with the Mets

2017: First LI Pride boat parade

2018: First Queens LGBT youth summit

From left to right: Kilmnick, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, honoree and Nassau University Medical Center Board Chairman George Tsunis, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

The 12 Step Program: A Proven Path To Recovery

The 12-step program has proven a reliable standby in battling the opioid epidemic. (Shutterstock)

The secret that tens of thousands of people have used to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction since 1935 has been revealed.

The program, which many medical professionals describe as having the greatest impact on addiction, is based on 12 simple steps that anyone can practice at meetings with the help of others like them.

“No one thing is going to [work] for everyone, but I think more often than not, the 12 steps give people a new way to live, without restrictions and covenants,” says Dr. Thomas Jan of Massapequa, who has been treating substance abusers with various addiction medication therapies for 25 years.

His patients are required to also be in a treatment program. He thinks 12-step programs have the highest success rate for long-term sobriety.

“It changes the core problem, which has nothing to do with alcohol or drugs,” he says. “Addiction has to do with thinking. It’s a disease of attitudes and behaviors.”

The premise upon which the 12-step program of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is based, and which members agree has saved their lives, is this: The therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel.

First and foremost is admitting that you have a problem and that you need help from others. Develop a belief in a power greater than yourself; stay away from people, places and things associated with your using; and make peace with actions you took while actively enslaved by the disease of addiction.

Barry, a social worker, believes a 12-step program gave him a life and recommends the programs to his clients.

“Thank God for the straight talk in 12-step meetings,” he says. “I received the support, understanding, and honesty that I could not get from others who did not understand the illness, even if they loved me. I continue to go now, 27 years later, not because it worked for me in the past, but because it continues to work for me in growing my spirituality and seeing how many of my attitudes and behaviors still stem from the self-destructive aspects of the disease.                                                                                                                       

 

“My entire task as a helper has been to foster the 12-step approach: Working to find recovery and happiness, as an inside job, will lead to healthy and lasting relationships, circumstances, etc — not the other way around,” he continues.

Others in recovery agreed that 12-step recovery worked for them.

“By doing the 12 steps, I’ve grown and changed the person that I was,” says Kenny, with 30 years in recovery. “I had people around me at the meetings who were going through the same thing that I supported and who supported me and my goals.”

He isn’t alone.

“NA changed my life because I had no life using,” says Susan. “I was poor, no education, no guidance, no morals, no love of life, no love of anyone else’s life either. I walked into my first meeting in July of 1987.

“A couple of members basically told me to learn how to listen instead of yapping and I’m grateful I did,” she continues. “I am now educated, morally and spiritually fit, love my life, love others, have a God, have a family, not too poor, and had a career beyond my wildest dreams. Yes, the 12 steps work.”

THE 12 STEPS
Step 1: I can’t.
Step 2: A higher power can.
Step 3: Let that higher power.
Step 4: Look within.
Step 5: Admit wrongs.
Step 6: Ready self for change.
Step 7: Seek a higher power’s  help.
Step 8: Become willing.
Step 9: Make amends.
Step 10: Daily inventory.
Step 11: Pray and meditate.
Step 12: Give it away.
(Condensed and reworded from the original)

24/7 HELPLINE NUMBERS

Narcotics Anonymous
Nassau 516-827-9500
Suffolk 631-689-6262

Alcoholics Anonymous
Nassau 516-292-3040
Suffolk 631-669-1124

Emerge Nursing and Rehabilitation at Glen Cove Debuts

From left: Jeffrey Spiegel, Emerge administrator; Isaac Laufer, owner; and Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).

The opening of the new Emerge Nursing and Rehabilitation at Glen Cove is part of a new trend in healthcare. The reflects not only new treatment methods but also makes people feel at home, in modern, comfortable surroundings with amenities that existed only in luxury hotels.

Nursing homes generally conjure up images of rickety stairs, dark hallways and people seated about in wheelchairs gazing at the walls. But at Emerge, those images don’t exist, says facility administrator Jeffrey Spiegel.

“It’s a new facility, new concept, new look, new feel – not to mention brand new amenities,” Spiegel says. “We strive to make people feel at home.”

The 102-bed Emerge, which just underwent a million-dollar renovation, is on the leading edge of state-of-the-art care for people just discharged from hospitals who are not yet able to be at home.

Patients leave a hospital setting for a hotel-like atmosphere where they’re greeted by a concierge, who brings their luggage to their room where they’re able to watch their own 32-inch flat-screen TV. On Wednesdays, they can get their hair done at the in-house full-service salon, and on Fridays, their nails. They can take a dip in the therapy pool, access the internet, or watch a recent DVD movie. Each private patient bathroom has been redecorated with marble floors.

The facility offers live entertainment and social events which may feature wine, cheese, piña coladas, and possibly, a treat at the in-house ice cream parlor, Lickety Split. And on any given day, patients can relax with a coffee and cannoli served by Chef Rocco at a table in a brand-new bakery in a glass-paneled solarium.

A newly hired corporate director of neurological rehabilitation is developing a program at Emerge to offer hope to stroke, traumatic brain and spinal cord injury clients. The program will include enhanced rehab, physiatry and neurology consults, neuropsychological services, and cognitive remediation.  The goal: improving attention, memory, language and speech.

Patient Ellen Weiss of Sea Cliff called the physical therapy staff at Emerge “Triple-A-plus amazing.”  

Emerge Administrator Jeffrey Spiegel

Vivitrol Therapy Gives Those In Recovery A Shot At Life

Members of one drug rehabilitation support group say shots of VivitrolTM help keep them from relapsing. (Photo by Alessandro Guerriero/Shutterstock)

A young man from an affluent Long Island community who was injured in a crash while away at college was prescribed Vicodin for the pain — a story that epitomizes the national opioid epidemic.

“Right away I knew I was in trouble,” the now-30-year-old man, whom we’ll call Chris to protect his identity, said during his first substance abuse support group meeting. “I like this way too much.”

His injuries persisted, and Vicodin no longer eased the pain, so he was then prescribed Percoset. When the doctor thought he shouldn’t need painkillers anymore, he was already hooked. He resorted to buying oxycodone on the street at $30 per pill.

Before long, a dealer told Chris he had something cheaper that would deliver the same high, and he didn’t have to use a needle: heroin. Several ERs, drug rehabs and an arrest later, Chris lost his job, savings, and girlfriend. He moved back in with his parents and hit rock bottom.

An addiction doctor suggested VivitrolTM, a once-a-month slow-release injection of naltrexone. After he got the shot, he found his way to a 12-step recovery meeting, where he met others who had been prescribed the same relapse prevention medication.

The doctor told Chris about the one-of-a-kind Tuesday night Shot at Life support group at St. Bernard’s Parish School in Levittown. Members of the group either are, were, or are considering getting on VivitrolTM.

That was three weeks ago, and Chris said he now feels great. VivitrolTM took away his cravings and stopped the destructive voices in his head, he says. And he’s far from alone.

Dr. Russell Surasky of Great Neck, who is double board-certified in neurology and addiction medicine, calls VivitrolTM one of the most effective treatments for opioid addiction.

“With the patient’s firm commitment to recovery, along with counseling and a strong support system, VivitrolTM is a powerful tool in treating addiction to opioids and alcohol,” Surasky says. “Treatment with medication along with ongoing substance-abuse therapy and support offers patients a lifeline. Our patients have had remarkable success with VivitrolTM. They tell us that they no longer crave or even think about opiates and they feel they have finally broken the chains of addiction.”

VivitrolTM was FDA-approved in 2006 for alcohol and in 2010 for opiates. It costs up to $1,300 per shot and is covered by Medicaid and most private health insurance. See vivitrol.com for a list of providers. About 1,500 patients on LI were treated with VivitrolTM between August 2017 and July 2018, according to the drug’s manufacturer, Alkermes.

Some members of the support group at St. Bernard’s visit regularly to share their experience with VivitrolTM with those who come to learn about it.

“Vivitrol saved my life,” Danny M., who was on the medicine for a year, tells the group. “I’ve struggled for years to get clean off opiates and heroin, and nothing [else] worked for me. I’ve now been clean from [opiates] for 19 months and feel better than I ever have. I also attend self-help meetings, which have played a big part in my recovery … this group is filled with such loving and caring people, who I consider family. I am forever grateful for it.”

For Grace C., VivitrolTM and 12-step meetings are the only combination that stopped her from sticking a needle in her arm. Today, she’s off the shot, eight months clean, and is expecting a baby in December.

“I continue to receive support at the group and am able to share my experience with compassion,” she says. “Sometimes I hear the solution there.”

They all say they found testimonials, understanding, and belonging in the group. The ability to give away what they have gotten is a big part of their recovery. The group was started by Linda Mangano and her husband, former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, in July 2015. She continues to volunteer to facilitate the group with boundless passion and dedication, even though neither she nor any of her family suffers from addiction.

“There is nothing more important than keeping families whole,” Linda says. “When someone has a substance use disorder, not only are they suffering but so is their family … we all need to join forces to try and keep people alive. No one is immune. No community is exempt … our meetings are a chance to make a difference, educate parents and friends, and help people get treatment.”

SHOT AT LIFE VIVITROL EDUCATION & SUPPORT GROUP
7-9 p.m. Tuesdays
St Bernard’s Parish School
3100 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown
2nd floor room #209