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Congresman Zeldin addresses the audience at a town hall in Smithtown. Photo from Congressman Zeldin’s office.

By Victoria Espinoza

After calls for more public discussions and town hall meetings from constituents in New York’s 1st Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) held three town halls this past Sunday. Some praised Zeldin for his patience dealing with “organized protestors,” while other attendees were still left wanting more dialogue with their representative.

Cindy Morris, a Stony Brook resident,  attended Zeldin’s third and final town hall of the day at St. Patrick’s Church in Smithtown.

“We’ve [progressive groups] been working very hard asking him to meet with us in a public forum since November,” Morris said in a phone interview. “This was his first attempt and I felt it was important to attend, both to thank him and show this is not an attempt for political theater like he’s claimed, but for real dialogue.”

In a previous interview, Zeldin spokesperson Jennifer DiSiena said requesting a town hall with the purpose of disrupting it is wrong and wouldn’t be taken seriously.

“Congressman Zeldin will meet with any constituent interested in a productive, substantive exchange of ideas,” she said. “He is not interested in the type of political theater that this group of liberal obstructionists is interested in promoting.”

DiSiena was addressing Project Free Knowledge, a group who hosted a “mock” town hall in Port Jefferson in March which featured a Zeldin impersonator and little effort for an impartial discussion. However, Zeldin has referred to different forms of protests by constituents in his district similarly.

But Morris insisted this meeting was nothing like the mock town hall. Unlike the first two town halls held earlier that day, where she said attendees did not have an opportunity for audience interaction, she praised the Smithtown event for being well-organized, giving some audience members a chance to ask a question off the cuff, that hadn’t been screened.

“He’s our congressional representative, and the representative piece of that is the most important part of his title,” she said. “We wanted to give him an opportunity to let him know what our values are, what we’re looking for.”

Morris also said after watching the first two town halls on Facebook Live, she recognized sound bites Zeldin had used repeatedly that day.

“There was certainly some messaging,” she said. “Until he’s willing to have a real conversation with his constituents, I think that’s literally political theater.”

The event was hosted by Catholics for Freedom of Religion, and President Barbara Samuells said she thought the event went very well.

“People were able to do what the event was intended for,” she said in a phone interview. “They were able to come forward in an open environment and ask questions.”

Samuells said the environment was respectful and calm, unlike other town halls she has seen across the country, and a variety of different issues were discussed. She also commended Zeldin on his directness, saying he answered questions honestly.

Residents wrote on Zeldin’s Facebook page praising him for attending the meetings. Bob Voss, of Mastic, recognized the congressman’s effort.

“Thank you once again for making yourself available to your district constituents and the opportunity to express their concerns whether there is agreement or not on an issue,” he said. “Most important is the knowledge, skill and ability to listen as opposed to talk/yell which may have various motivations. In community forums like these and when [they are] done with mutual dignity and respect much can be accomplished other than shouting.”

But others agreed with Morris, saying the conversation was not as direct as they would have liked.

Nicolle Zeman, who attended the Riverhead town hall, wrote on a Facebook page called Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin, which is comprised of people urging Zeldin to hold town halls. Many are harsh critics of the congressman.

“There was lots of rambling, avoiding answering direct questions and self-serving monologues,” she said. Zeman asked Zeldin about President Donald Trump’s (R) possible tax plan to eliminate the head of household filing status, and said Zeldin instead “rambled,” on about tax reform in general, and when she pressed him on the specific elimination he couldn’t say definitively if he would support the elimination or not.

Zeldin was one of Trump’s first supporters on Long Island, however as of late he seems to be putting some space between himself and the commander-in-chief.

“He did say a couple of times that Trump needs to clean up the way he speaks, that he’s no longer a television host, he’s the president,” she said. “He’s trying to find ways to distance himself from Trump but he’s voting for the Trump agenda.”

Morris acknowledged Zeldin is committed to fighting cuts against the Environmental Protection Agency and funding to the Long Island Sound, which is the opposite stance of Trump, however he “stands strongly with him,” on immigration and financial issues.

FiveThirtyEight, a website focusing on poll analysis and politics, gave Zeldin a 96 percent score for how often he votes in line with the president’s position on house bills. But in the most recent house bill to repeal an FCC rule stopping internet service providers from sharing data of customer’s activities, Zeldin voted no — the opposite of Trump’s position. The bill had almost unanimous Republican support.

Morris also said Zeldin’s staff was helpful after the events, approaching them and getting their contact information to keep them informed.

“They asked us if we would stop protesting, we used the hashtag #WhereIsZeldin, and they said we found him here, there’s no more reason to use it,” Morris said. “But I told them we wouldn’t stop after a one hour moment.”

After the town halls Zeldin said he enjoyed meeting with the people of his district that day.

“It was such a pleasure to meet with so many great constituents at today’s town halls to hear concerns and answer questions,” he said. “At the community forums, we were able to cover a breadth of very important issues, including health care, the environment, foreign policy, economic growth, several local issues, and so much more. I am willing to work with absolutely anyone to move our country forward, no matter what your ideological background is, and I welcome any opportunity to engage in substantive, productive dialogue.”

Lee Zeldin, center, announces his support of two House bills to help addicts and prevent others from using drugs. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

This past weekend 1st Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) hosted town hall events in Riverhead, Farmingville and Smithtown. Ordinarily, an elected official meeting face to face with constituents shouldn’t be breaking news. When it comes to Zeldin, however, holding these town halls is noteworthy because of how hard some voters pleaded with him in the past few months to participate in an open forum as he did April 23.

Before these, he held a phone town hall, which left several constituents upset with the restricting nature of the conversation. Only a handful of questions could be asked, and were submitted prior to the phone call, with thousands listening in. And, of course, there was no face time.

We commend Zeldin for listening to the concerns of the people who elected him as their representative all day Sunday, knowing he would face many angry residents.

Firsthand accounts of the three meetings returned a mixed bag of reviews. Many were happy to have had the chance to hear Zeldin speak about issues important to them, though others were still unsatisfied because questions for some of the meetings were screened ahead of time and selected by moderators.

Holding three town halls was a great step by a congressman who is obviously liked in his district. Nearly 60 percent of the district selected Zeldin on Election Day. He proved he is capable of standing in front of a partially hostile crowd and contributing to a productive dialogue, while the 40 percent of voters who didn’t select him and have been behaving like “liberal obstructionists,” as Zeldin has dubbed them, proved they’re capable of participating in a civilized conversation completely devoid of danger to the congressman.

This was a first step by both sides, but more work is clearly left to be done before midterm elections in November 2018. Let’s keep the ball rolling and keep the dialogue open.

Anna Throne-Holst. Photo by Phil Corso
Anna Throne-Holst. Photo by Phil Corso

Freshman Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has done some admirable things for constituents of the 1st district. A veteran himself, with four years of active duty — including a deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and nine years in the Army Reserves — he has done a lot for Long Island veterans. He was also instrumental in the signing into law of an amendment that bears his name, allowing states to opt out of Common Core without fear that there will be any loss of federal funding as a result. That’s a victory for the nearly unanimous animus we’ve heard candidates express for the program this fall.

Challenger Anna Throne-Holst (D) was elected four times to the Southampton Town Board and, as town supervisor, fixed financial problems, streamlined the budget and put the reallocated funds to use improving quality of life for Southampton residents. And she did this while in the minority, working with Republicans. Now she hopes to bring that skill set to Congress and we’d like to see her do it.

These are both hard-working, dedicated politicians, but one aligns with our values and ideals better. Only Throne-Holst believes in background checks for gun purchasers, revamping the existing Affordable Care Act, protecting a woman’s right to choose and overturning Citizen’s United.

We endorse Anna Throne-Holst to be our next congressperson.           

Jack Martins. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.
Jack Martins. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

The congressional race between Tom Suozzi (D) and Jack Martins (R) in the 3rd district is an exciting one, with no incumbent and thus no clear front-runner.

After listening to both candidates, we were more impressed with Martins’ points of view and ideas to improve New York. While Martins is running on the Republican ticket, he was not afraid to stray from his party’s traditional ideologies, including his stance on the funding of Planned Parenthood, gun control reform and climate change. Martins described himself as a man in the middle, and we would agree. For example, while he is pro-life, Martins said he does not support defunding Planned Parenthood and believes intimate health decisions should not involve government officials. He has a proven record of bringing improvements to the area he served in the New York State Senate, and he also brought up some of the projects he was defeated on, showing that he understands the need to listen to a community when they don’t support ideas. We believe he would do the same for the 3rd Congressional District.

It’s also important to note Martins came into our office for an interview, and Suozzi was only able to speak on the phone, which is a less effective forum.

Suozzi also has a long record of public service, and he certainly understands the problems facing the district. He has some great ideas to improve New York, but when you can only chose one, we chose Martins.

Jack Martins, left, and Tom Suozzi, right, are both vying for the open congressional seat on the North Shore. Left photo by Victoria Espinoza; file photo right

By Rebecca Anzel

Both candidates running to succeed Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) in the 3rd Congressional District agree the winner needs to be an agent of change, but State Senator Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) disagree about what that means.

Martins, a lawyer, spent eight years as mayor of Mineola and five years as the state senator from the 7th senate district. He said his record proves he is able to achieve meaningful change by working across party lines, making necessary decisions and leaving things more stable than he found them.

“You have to measure commitments by actions and results, and certainly my tenure speaks for itself and [Suozzi’s] tenure speaks for itself, and I think those are important distinctions,” Martins said. “Oftentimes, when it comes to my opponent, the problem is he’s more concerned with running for something else and taking that next step than he is about fixing the problems he was elected to fix.”

For Suozzi, an attorney and certified public accountant, it takes more than bipartisanship to solve issues the country has been struggling with for decades. He said during his seven years in office both as mayor of Glen Glove and Nassau County executive, he fought to “change the status quo” — even when that meant going against his party.

“I think that my experience has given me a skill set and a life experience that have trained me to actually get things done,” Suozzi said in a phone interview. “I’m the only candidate in this race that has a proven record of standing up to very powerful forces and fighting to get things done on behalf of the people I serve.”

Both candidates agree issues such as water quality and heroin use are concerns for Long Islanders.

Martins and Suozzi both said sewers would help curb the amount of harmful nitrogen leaching into Long Island’s water bodies from septic systems and cesspools. Martins prioritized Long Island’s drinking water and pushed the importance of a comprehensive study of its aquifer to be conducted and followed up with some regularity.

Suozzi focused on the Long Island Sound. He said the 3rd Congressional District is an important one in regard to the sound and to protect it, residents need to think about it differently.

“We need to try to promote the concept of the Long Island Sound as our national park, and we need to work on reducing the amount of nitrogen that goes into [the Long Island Sound] from stormwater runoff from everywhere,” he said.

Both candidates also agreed educating children early about the dangers of heroin and other drugs is important — but their plans differed. Martins said penalties need to be higher for sellers of heroin and addicts need to have a path to sobriety.

“It is a critical issue and we need to get our hands around it,” he said. “We have to increase penalties for the sale of these products while at the same time understanding we’re not going to incarcerate our way through this.”

Suozzi said the problem started with medical professionals prescribing too many opioids, and that needs to be tackled first, beyond the state registry.

The congressional hopefuls both commented that the national election should be more about issues and less about personal attacks and said they will be voting along party lines — Martins said he plans to vote for Donald Trump (R) and Suozzi for Hillary Clinton (D).

Members of Gays Against Guns protest against U. S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. Photo from Duncan Osborne

An anti-gun advocacy group put a North Shore lawmaker in its crosshairs over the weekend when members protested outside his office.

Gays Against Guns — a nonprofit organization made up of lesbian, gay and transgender people and others who believe in a ban of high-capacity magazine guns and assault weapons, stricter background checks and online gun sales — held a protest in Smithtown over the weekend.

The group said they chose to rally in front of the office of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) because they believe he is a “puppet” for the NRA and hasn’t worked enough to create legislation that effectively limits the use of guns.

Zeldin said protestors are not focusing on the real issue, which is preventing terrorists from getting firearms without limiting Americans’ constitutional rights.

Duncan Osborne, a member of Gays Against Guns, said he believes Zeldin doesn’t have an interest in regulating firearms. He also criticized Zeldin’s Protect America Act of 2015. The bill would grant the attorney general authority to deny firearms and explosives to individuals who are engaged in terrorist activities or where there is a reasonable belief that an individual may use a firearm or explosive in connection with terrorism.

“His piece of legislation is little more than a Band-Aid,” Osborne said in a phone interview. “He has made no serious effort to get it passed. His bill was a joke to make Republicans look like they’re doing something on gun regulation when in fact it is nearly impossible to implement.”

A member of Gays Against Guns holds up a puppet of U. S. Rep. Lee Zeldin during a protest. Photo from Duncan Osborne
A member of Gays Against Guns holds up a puppet of U. S. Rep. Lee Zeldin during a protest. Photo from Duncan Osborne

Zeldin said the issue is being influenced by politics.

“It’s unfortunate that the Democratic Party and their most loyal supporters are politicizing this issue and [the] bill to keep firearms and explosives out of the hands of terrorists,” he said in an email, according to spokesperson Jennifer DiSiena.

When Zeldin first introduced the bill last year, he said the legislation would “help prevent terrorists from purchasing firearms or explosives, while putting in place safeguards to ensure that the rights of law abiding Americans are protected.”

According to Congress’ website, the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee in Dec. 2015, and then referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations in Jan. 2016. The bill currently has 14 Republican co-sponsors.

Gays Against Guns also criticized Zeldin’s connections to the NRA, calling him a puppet for the organization, and the NRA his puppet master.

“We don’t think he belongs in Congress,” Osborne said. “He has no interest in regulating firearms.”

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, another nonprofit organization that participated in the protest, agreed Zeldin should leave office.

“They’ve got to go if we’re ever going to pass the kind of meaningful gun regulation,” Executive Director of NYAGV Leah Gunn Barrett said in a statement.

DiSiena said Zeldin is fighting to support and protect his constituents.

“His positions are not for sale to anyone,” DiSiena said in an email. “If these disrupters want to actually keep Americans safe, they would work with Congressman Zeldin as opposed to launching highly partisan protests against him. These groups should unite behind Congressman Zeldin’s efforts if their genuine intentions are to keep terrorists from being able to purchase firearms.”

According to GovTrack, Zeldin was among the highest 10 percent of House Republicans joining bipartisan bills in 2015 and supporting progressive ideology.

Setauket native David Calone, left, barely trails former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, right, after Tuesday’s primary election. File photos

Polls closed Tuesday at 9 p.m. for the Democratic primary in the 1st Congressional District, but voters still have to wait to find out who will face freshman U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) come November.

Setauket native David Calone trailed former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst by 29 votes by the end of Tuesday, unofficial Suffolk County Board of Elections results showed, but neither candidate felt comfortable enough to speak definitively about the race.

Unofficial results showed Throne-Holst with 5,446 votes — 50.09 percent of the vote — and Calone with 5,417 votes — 49.82 percent.

Calone, a former prosecutor, venture capitalist, and North Shore native, said his campaign would be waiting for the nearly 1,700 absentee ballots to be counted in the coming week before making any further statements on his status in the primary race.

“We did not have Wall Street fundraisers, and we did not have $720,000 of super PAC funding poured in for us in the last three weeks — but here we are in a virtual tie,” Calone said Wednesday. “I cannot begin to thank all the volunteers and supporters who have put their hearts and souls into this campaign over the past year. Together, we knocked on thousands of doors, held nearly fifty house parties, and made tens of thousands of phone calls to voters in every corner of this district.”

By the end of the primary campaign, Calone received several endorsements from various elected officials and community groups, including state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station).

Calone has experience working as director of six privately held companies throughout the country and has helped organize the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the U.S. House of Representatives, advocating federal policies that promote job creation through the development of startups and other small businesses. In that role, he helped launch Startup Day Across America, an event to connect federal officials with early-stage companies in their regions. He also founded the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, which provides funding to six early-stage companies based on technology developed at Long Island’s research institutions.

Throne-Holst, who received support from Zeldin’s predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) — who Throne-Holst said was pivotal in convincing her to run — spoke with gravitas about her standing after all voting district tallies were in Tuesday night, excluding absentee votes.

“We are waiting for all votes to be counted,” she said in a statement, “but are proud to have a lead at the end of election night. We are confident going forward that victory will be ours now … and in November.”

Throne-Holst co-founded the Hayground School — an elementary school dedicated to supporting children with different learning needs. After serving as a councilwoman, she was the first Democrat to be elected supervisor in Southampton since 1993, overcoming a red-leaning electorate on the East End.

Zeldin unseated the six-term Democrat Bishop by a wide margin back in 2014, with a final vote total of his 54 percent to 45 percent.

“While the two Democrats continue to slug it out against each other beyond a primary with historically low voter turnout, I remain focused on my work to pursue my ‘New Era of American Strength’ agenda to protect America’s security at home and abroad, help grow our economy, support our veterans and first responders, improve health care and the quality of education, repair our nation’s infrastructure and safeguard our environment,” Zeldin said in a statement.

Out in the more western 3rd Congressional District, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) bested four other candidates vying for the nomination to run for Israel’s seat after the longtime incumbent said he would not seek re-election earlier this year.

Photo by Alex Petroski Tom Suozzi speaks to voters. Photo by Alex Petroski.

Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) is one of five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the 3rd Congressional District to win the right to face off against Republican Jack Martins (R-Mineola) in November.

The seat was previously held by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who announced in January he would not seek re-election after 15 years in the seat. Suozzi will square off with Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), former North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman (D-Great Neck), North Hempstead Town Board member Anna Kaplan and attorney Jonathan Clarke in the June 28 primary.

Suozzi served as Nassau County Executive from 2002 to 2009 and mayor of Glen Cove from 1994 to 2001, but has been out of politics for about six years. He is a certified public accountant and is currently of counsel to Harris Beach law firm in Uniondale. He lives in Glen Cove with his wife Helene and their three children. In his time in office, Suozzi said he fought to root out corruption in state politics and was named environmentalist of the year by the New York League of Conservation Voters, a statewide environmental organization.

The candidate spoke to voters from Kings Park last Thursday at a town hall at American Legion Post 944. He pledged to display two important traits to voters: a willingness to take on the status quo in politics and a desire to cooperate across the partisan aisle.

“If there’s one thing I’m convinced of, it’s that everyone is sick and tired of politics,” Suozzi said. “People have just had it with government. They’re frustrated. They see too many problems in their lives that are not being addressed in the political arena.”

“If there’s one thing I’m convinced of, it’s that everyone is sick and tired of politics.”
— Tom Suozzi

He vowed to take on corporations and special interests that have a stake in government policies remaining status quo.

A main topic of conversation at the town hall was affordable health care.

Suozzi said he would be in support of a voucher program that would create a hybrid health care system, allowing taxpayers to choose the best option for them, be it Medicare/Medicaid or a private insurance. In 2004 he fought to create a cap on local Medicaid expenses.

Suozzi also said he believes an ideal candidate is a moderate one that doesn’t swing too far to either side of the issues.

“To win a democratic primary you’ve got to go way to the left,” Suozzi said. “To win a republican primary you’ve got to go way to the right. So people end up in office who are at these two extremes and they won’t do anything in the middle to actually solve the problems. All they’re doing is yelling at each other. We have to figure out how we can get people of good will who actually care about doing these jobs, who also actually do something, not just get the job, but do the job, to come together and actually solve some problems.”

Care for veterans was another issue raised by a Kings Park voter at the event.

“I believe that the number one obligation that government has … is to take care of veterans,” Suozzi said. “We have to figure out how to create a program where there’s a transition from the armed forces back into society again and it has got to be made a priority.”

Suozzi was also pressed about drug addiction on Long Island.

He said he’d like to see addiction to substances like heroin treated more as a disease than a crime, with an emphasis on prevention at younger ages, rather than simply treatment after the fact.

Jon Kaiman (right) receives an endorsement from Jon Cooper (left) for his candidacy as the Democratic nominee in the race for the 3rd Congressional District seat. Photo by Alex Petroski

With the race for outgoing U.S. Rep. Steve Israel’s seat heating up, a new contender from Nassau County has thrown his hat into the race.

Jon Kaiman (D-Great Neck) is one of five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the 3rd Congressional District seat, which spans from Northeast Queens, Huntington and Smithtown. Israel (D-Huntington), who has publicly endorsed Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) for the job, has held the seat for the last 15 years but opted not to run for re-election.

At a press event last Thursday at Munday’s restaurant in Huntington, Kaiman said he’s felt some frustration with federal politics from his would-be constituents, but he’s confident his background and experience will help repair the relationship.

Kaiman previously served as North Hempstead’s town supervisor from 2004 to 2013. During that time he said he earned a reputation as a progressive Democrat willing to fight for social justice. He has also served as an advisor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on his Superstorm Sandy Disaster Relief Program that helped homeowners and businesses recover after the storm.

“Part of this role that we play when we present ourselves as leaders is to define ourselves in a way that other people can have confidence that they know who we are and where we can go,” Kaiman said. “I think I’ve done that throughout my own history.”

People can look through his record, he said, as it includes programs that brought improvements to the lives of those he served.

One program he created, Project Independence, provided more than 50,000 senior citizens with services, such as transportation to supermarkets and medical appointments and access to nursing services and more, in an effort to help seniors continue living safely in their own homes.

Kaiman also mentioned high interest rates that students are paying on loans as an example of the disconnect between government and people. Though he doesn’t agree with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that college should be free, Kaiman said he appreciates the light Sanders is shining on the issue because something needs to change. His campaign website he says he stands with Planned Parenthood, supports gun control measures and wants to combat climate change.

He received an endorsement from the former Democratic majority leader of the Suffolk County Legislature, Jon Cooper. Cooper joins former Queens Congressman Gary Ackerman as some of the higher-profile endorsements Kaiman has received on the campaign trail.

“Jon is a lifelong progressive Democrat who stands by his core values,” Cooper said of Kaiman during last Thursday’s press event. “He’s not afraid to take a position that may not be popular. If you hold your finger up to the wind and just see which way the wind is blowing and follow the polls, that may be the safest and easiest thing to do politically, but a leader should be willing to lead. That’s one reason why I decided not to endorse the other candidates and why I’m endorsing this gentleman.”

Apart from Stern, Kaiman faces Tom Suozzi, former Nassau County Executive; Anna Kaplan, North Hempstead Town Board member; and attorney Jonathan Clarke.

Kaiman’s history of fighting for social justice and his ability to work across the aisle were some of his more attractive qualities as a candidate, according to Cooper, who likened the congressional hopeful to Vice President Joe Biden in that regard.

Kaiman lives in Great Neck with his wife and three children.

The congressional Democratic primary day for New York is June 28. The winner will face Republican nominee New York State Sen. Jack Martins.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, joined by Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini, health professionals, community groups, parents, expresses his support for the package of bills coming to the House floor this week. File photo from Jennifer DiSiena

By Phil Corso

Congress is taking unprecedented steps to fight heroin and opioid abuse, and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) brought the battle to Kings Park to spread the word.

In the company of other lawmakers and activists, Zeldin spoke at VFW Post 5796 last Thursday to discuss a package of bipartisan legislation the congressman has been pushing that addresses different angles of the disturbing upward trend in heroin and prescription opioid abuse on Long Island and across the country. The momentum from his stumping also helped propel several pieces of such legislation to a vote on the House floor by the following week.

The proposed legislation would review and update guidelines for prescribing opioids and pain medication, and require a report to Congress on the availability of substance abuse treatment in the country, among other provisions.

In his remarks last week, the congressman cited an alarming statistic from the Centers for Disease Control: more than 28,000 overdose deaths were recorded in 2014 as a result of heroin or opioid abuse — the highest number on record. Zeldin, who joined the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic in November, said Suffolk County recorded one of the highest rates of overdose deaths across the state, and needed a multi-pronged approach to address it.

“Next week, the House of Representatives is dedicating a full week to passing legislation aimed at addressing this epidemic, with a package of several bills to combat the growing heroin and opioid crisis,” Zeldin said. “Addiction and overdose deaths on Long Island and across our country are skyrocketing as a direct result of the increase in heroin and opioid abuse.”

In a phone interview, Zeldin said this was the first time the House had taken such unified measures to combat the problem, as its consequences were becoming impossible to ignore. The congressman used strong language when outlining the heroin addiction problem to drive it home.

“The rates that overdoses are increasing, and the fact that it’s not isolated to any one kind of community, has led many to describe this as an epidemic,” he said.

Joining Zeldin was Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini, who has been working on the front lines of the addiction problem, as Suffolk County suffered 103 fatal heroin overdoses in 2015 alone — more than double its neighboring Nassau County, which recorded 50. Sini also used the term “epidemic” to describe the fight he and his fellow officers have been facing.

“The heroin epidemic that our nation is facing is the number one public health and public safety issue here in Suffolk County,” Sini said. “Partnerships between local law enforcement and our federal representatives is a crucial tool in the battle against this scourge.”

And North Shore natives who felt the hurt of that “epidemic” stood beside Zeldin and Sini to throw their support behind legislative resolutions. Kim Revere, president of the Kings Park in the kNOw Community Coalition, and Linda Ventura, founder of the Thomas’ Hope Foundation, both said there were several different approaches lawmakers must take to address addiction, from prevention to rehabilitation.

“I believe wholeheartedly that prevention should begin at home,” said Revere, referring to the legislation as a wakeup call. “I am seeing many adults abusing alcohol and [prescription] drugs and that does not bode well for our children. I would like to see permanent evidence-based prevention programs implemented in school grades kindergarten through 12.”

Ventura, whose son Thomas died at age 21 from a drug overdose four years ago, said measures like Narcan, a medication which is administered to help reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, were important but not the only tool emergency responders should lean on.

“The United States needs to commit every resource imaginable to fight this insidious disease. The lifesaving tool Narcan needs to be accessible to all concerned to help save a life in the interim of an overdose to find treatment,” she said. “Treatment needs to be the appropriate level of care at the earliest intervention possible. Prevention — we must start educating and empowering our youngest of children with coping skills, relaxation techniques and communication skills.”

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