Care, Compassion And Community Will Cure The Ongoing Opioid Epidemic

By Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino

The opioid epidemic has raged on for decades. At this point, an entire generation has grown up in its shadows. As Newsday reported in their July 4 cover story, the epidemic claimed more victims this summer in Massapequa—the heart of the west side of the 9th Assembly District, which I represent.

One thing is increasingly clear to us Long Islanders: we are all in this together.

Due to the stigmatization of addiction and the physically and emotionally excruciating effects of withdrawal, those who are addicted to opioids or heroin often don’t seek help because they don’t want to be cast out. Who would? These people, who may be our closest family members, friends, or neighbors, do not have malicious intent. They are afflicted with a traumatic disease that could have been caused by trauma in the first place. It is a troubling cycle.

Opioid addiction and overdoses also take a toll on families and first responders, who often feel distressed and alone in this struggle. To strengthen the support network they need, many gathered in memory of their loved ones on Overdose Awareness Day. We must continue strengthening our bonds because, as we’ve seen, any solution will ultimately take a village to succeed.

In the past few years, public schools, law enforcement and social workers, such as those at the YES Community Counseling Center in Massapequa, have initiated programs to treat addiction, trauma and related social ills. For one example that has already made an impact, the Nassau County Police Department and Commissioner Patrick Ryder introduced the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, or OD MAP, to immediately respond to the areas hit hardest.

As the state Assemblywoman from this region of Long Island’s south shore, I have done and will continue to do whatever I can to assist these efforts. During the legislative session, I delivered $50,000 to the YES Center, which was recently a stop on Speaker Carl E. Heastie’s statewide tour. We also hosted Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, NCPD, the DA’s office, and local volunteer groups.

One of them, Drug Free Long Island, teamed up with my office to cohost a free training on Narcan, medically known as naloxone. Narcan is commonly used in emergency situations, as non-medical civilians can administer it on the spot to prevent a heroin overdose from turning fatal. Narcan trainings can be life-saving for adults and young people alike, and as a mother and a teacher, I firmly believe they should be taught in our schools.

With the new school year starting, I want all my constituents and Long Islanders to know that you are not alone and we are all in this together. When we work together to address the issues we share—opioid addiction being one of them—nothing can stop us, not even an epidemic.

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