By Victoria Espinoza
The Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force received more than half a million dollars in a grant from the federal government to help further educate the youth in the community about the dangers of substance and alcohol abuse.
Anthony Ferrandino, co-chair of the task force, said the group has had their eyes on the Drug Free Communities grant for five years, and applied last year, so he was “ecstatic” to finally receive it.
The grant is part of the Drug Free Communities Support Program, a White House project that works to reduce youth substance use by promoting communitywide participation and evidence-based practices.
“The prescription drug abuse crisis on Long Island is symptomatic of the larger opioid epidemic that New York State and the entire country is facing, and we need to fight back now.” — Chuck Schumer
Ferrandino said the federal grant is extremely competitive, which makes him even prouder the task force was selected to receive it.
“I was so happy,” he said in a phone interview. “This is something I know Northport will benefit from.”
The task force worked with the Central Nassau Guidance & Counseling Services, a not-for-profit behavioral health safetynet organization, to help apply for, win and administer the funds. The task force will receive $125,000 per year for the next five years.
The not-for-profit will provide both administrative oversight in the future, as well as clinical and subject matter expertise on substance-use prevention and treatment.
Jeffrey Friedman, CEO of Central Nassau, and a Northport resident, said the grant helps ensure students will have a plethora of resources to help them deal with the increase in substance abuse throughout Suffolk County.
“This funding from the federal government infuses urgently needed financial resources to one of the strongest grassroots movements on Long Island — to save the lives of youth who are using drugs and alcohol, starting at very young ages,” he said in an email. “Even as heroin and prescription opioids are destroying L.I. families at unprecedented rates, this community-focused grant provides a new opportunity to break the cycle of abuse and ‘business as usual’ — and to spark community-level change.”
The federal grant enables the hiring of a full-time task force coalition leader, and supports a range of coordinated practices and evidence-supported activities aimed at prevention. The programs include parent-education, social media initiatives, pharmacist/youth collaboration and stricter law enforcement practices.
Ferrandino said the task force is currently interviewing candidates for the coalition leader position, and they want someone who can communicate and educate the community, run multiple subcommittees and manage the emotional aspects of the growing drug problem.
The co-chair said that when applying for the grant, the task force wanted to use the money to focus on two specific problems; underage drinking and prescription drug abuse.
New York legislators are proud of the progress the Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force has made.
“The prescription drug abuse crisis on Long Island is symptomatic of the larger opioid epidemic that New York State and the entire country is facing, and we need to fight back now,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) said in a statement. “These grant recipients have been on the front lines of combatting the disturbing drug abuse uptick among our Long Island youth and this investment will provide them with the resources they need to continue their lifesaving work.”
The task force was first created in 2006, and has designed programs to reach out to students in the Northport/East Northport community, including sponsoring a film premiere this year about drug abuse recovery, organizing Narcan training sessions, and more.
Suffolk County has statistically been one of the greatest areas of concern in New York for heroin and opioid deaths in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the county has had more than 100 opioid-related overdoses for several consecutive years.
The issue is not just in New York. According to the CDC, from 2005 to 2014, drug overdose deaths have risen by 144 percent to 2,300 deaths in New York, and 58 percent to 47,055 deaths in the nation.