Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart announced a significant decrease in opioid-related deaths in 2018 compared to the year before. In 2018, the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office reported 308 deaths relating to opioids compared to an estimated 410 in 2017, marking a 24.9 percent reduction. The Medical Examiner’s Office is awaiting additional results of 91 pending drug overdose cases from 2018 and 30 pending drug overdose cases from 2017, which are not included in these figures.
“This significant reduction is a testament to smart law enforcement strategies, community outreach, and expanding access to recovery and preventative services,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. "I thank Suffolk County Police Commissioner Hart and District Attorney Sini for their steadfast dedication to our mission to eradicate the opioid epidemic once and for all.”
Suffolk County Police Department Geraldine Hart said: “The decrease is extremely encouraging as I believe our enforcement and education efforts are saving lives. We will continue to be proactive in ridding of our communities of opioids that are hurting the lives of the addicted and their families.”
The Suffolk County Police Department has implemented a comprehensive approach to curbing the opioid epidemic through a variety of avenues, including enforcement, education and prevention. The Department has utilized an advanced internal mapping system that can identify trending areas where increased drug activity may be taking place. In addition, the Suffolk County Police Department has worked extensively with the District Attorney’s office to increase the number of search warrants by 12 percent in 2019, which has led to the seizure of fentanyl, heroin, crack and other narcotics.
The Department is also continuing to attack this epidemic on additional fronts, such as partnerships with schools, community groups and non-profit organizations. An example of this includes an initiative with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence called the PIVOT program, which started in fall 2017. This program is offered to those residents the Department identifies through encounters as potential drug abusers or are at-risk and who would benefit from treatment or an intervention. The goal is to reduce substance abuse and drug-related or motivated crime. Through this partnership, LICAAD’s professionals reach out to those people to hopefully start their process to voluntarily enter a treatment program and begin their road to recovery.
Additional Administration Actions
To date the Suffolk County Department of Health Services has conducted 468 independent classes, training more than 12,650 non-traditional responders in opioid recognition and reversal since 2013. In addition, local hospitals, which offer opioid overdose prevention training and Narcan™ kits under Suffolk County’s New York State authorized program have collectively trained an additional 1,570 individuals, bringing the cumulative total to over 14,000 individuals trained. The County is creating a new level of first responder to intervene in the critical minutes between discovery of an overdose and administration of Narcan™.
Since the opioid overdose prevention pilot project in 2012, all first responders in Suffolk County, including police officers, have been trained to identify and reverse opioid overdoses. As a result, EMS, police, and lay citizens trained in the program have saved countless lives. This program has been a critical part of the response to the opioid epidemic.
The administration has invested significant resources and offered programs and services to help those struggling with addiction, help family members recognize the possible signs of addiction, and provide them the tools they need to be able to have that difficult discussion to broach the topic. Each month, the Suffolk County Department of Health Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services serves approximately 1,000 clients in the three mental health clinics, approximately 1,100 clients in alcohol and substance abuse services, 230 clients in the Case Management programs, and 650 inmates in the Suffolk County Correctional Facility Mental Hygiene Units.
The administration has also implemented a 24/7 substance abuse hotline, launched in April of 2016 in partnership with LICADD, to link callers to appropriate treatment or support services during their time of need. The Substance Abuse Hotline Number is (631) 979-1700.