Tags Posts tagged with "Heroin"

Heroin

Marisa Vitali, creator of “Grace,” speaks after the screening of the film. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Marisa Vitali

Life happens in the in-between spaces, from here to there. Recovery happens in the in-between spaces, when no one is looking and no one is around. How do we choose to live? How do we choose to be in those quiet moments with self? Have I filled my void, my spirit with happiness?

Or do I look outside myself for a drink, a drug, food, sex, shopping, cigarettes; to make myself not feel; to fill the void, the gaping black hole of low self-esteem and low self-worth?

I’ve learned that in recovery I have a choice. I’m no longer a slave to my next bag of dope and I can choose to see the glass half empty or half full.

Myself, I want it all, but when I logically prioritize, longevity and quality of life are on the top of the list. Every minute I spend obliterated is one less finite minute I have to feel life.

I do my best on a daily basis to choose happiness; to live happy, joyous and free. Recovery allows me to be in a place of rediscovery. To relearn the wisdom I was born with and somehow let slip between the fingers of my mind.

Just to be living is truly a gift and one not to be squandered on those people, places and things that cause us pain. Life is a gift to be celebrated and shared with those we love and who bring us even more joy than we may already be feeling.

Having this opportunity to live in recovery, I so know it didn’t have to be this way.

I always say: My life is nothing what I thought it would be and yet nothing I ever could have imagined it to be.

I don’t know the source of life, but I do know the humility I feel when confronted by nature and the magical way everything is prepared for every situation it could possibly encounter. That delusion in and of itself eliminates anxiety and I’m in deep.

I have come to the realization that living life to the fullest is not about my achievements — it is about my breath.

“I’ve learned that in recovery I have a choice. I’m no longer a slave to my next bag of dope and I can choose to see the glass half empty or half full.”
—Marisa Vitali

This moment, right here and now. Feeling everything there is to feel and experience in this one breath of in and out. This is what is intended. To soak in every drop of this thing called life.

We all intellectually know about breath and present moments so I will spare you the details in favor of encouraging you to do what you truly desire before it’s too late. Or keep collecting excuses that will serve you well in your final moments.

Because all we really have is today. There is no need to mar this experience with drugs and alcohol in order to escape this moment, this breath.

Not to make you nauseous with platitudes, but I do feel an urge to recap the classics. Living at the highest-level means feeling good about your life. There’s give and take without malice or greed, there is healthy socialization with challenging, stimulating people of integrity. There is reverence way before relevance, so if you turned down that road, I suggest you make a U-turn in the first driveway.

That’s what we’re all here for: to live the good, the bad and the ugly. To feel, to grow, to better ourselves and to help one another. We are here to serve, regardless of our elitist aspirations, so share your talents and energy freely. Our influence is exponential and will outlive us for eternity.

If one falls, we all fall, and so it’s a treasure and an opportunity to uplift one another in times of need with love, compassion and authenticity.

We all fall eventually. I fall at the door of a true friend. One of the most vivifying experiences is the exchange of love, and that I’m not afraid to express anymore.

This life, this recovery is a journey; it’s all in the same, with twists and turns, mountains and mole hills.

No matter what I choose not to use. I am evolving into whatever my imagination is capable of, without ego and defects of character that keep me small, dictating how it all should play out.

We are so much more powerful than we could possibly acknowledge. Tap into that source. Your source of creation, whatever that may be for you. The answers you seek are deep within.

There but for the grace of God go I. Live free, as the only thing constant is change.

So change! Do something different. I dare you. If nothing changes, nothing changes. Simple yet true.  The clock is ticking. Seize the day and all that carpe diem s—.

But seriously, take a look around – this is all of your creation. You did this, you made this happen, you made these choices.

Will you run and hide like you’ve always done, or will you stand tall in the eye of the storm and dance in the rain?

We all have choices. I know what I choose. Do you? I dare you to live.

Marisa Vitali is a Northport native actress who created a short film about the journey of recovering from drug addiction.

Huntington town officials hope federal funding will help crack down on drug use and gang violence. File photo

State legislation

In the 2016 legislative session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a comprehensive package of bills, aimed at increasing access to treatment, expanding community prevention strategies and limiting the overprescription of opioids in the state. Some of the most important parts of the bills are highlighted below:

• Legislation now ensures insurers must cover “necessary” inpatient services for substance use disorder treatments for as long as an individual needs them. Review from the company can only begin 14 days after treatment to ensure each patient has two weeks of uninterrupted and covered care.

• Insurers are prohibited from requiring prior approval for emergency supplies of these medications.

• Insurers must use objective state-approved criteria to determine the level of care for individuals suffering from substance abuse.

• Insurers must cover the costs of Narcan to families with individuals suffering from substance abuse.

• Families now offered 72 hours of emergency treatment, instead of 48 hours, for family members so they can be stabilized and connected to longer-term addiction treatment options while also balancing individual rights of the incapacitated individuals.

• Requires hospitals to provide follow-up service options to individuals upon hospital discharge to connect patients with nearby treatment options to provide continuous medical care.

• Reducing opioid prescription limits from 30 days to seven days, with exceptions of chronic pain and other conditions.

• Health care professionals must complete three hours of education every three years on addiction, pain management and palliative care.

State budget

The 2016-17 state government has allotted funding to help curb the growing substance abuse problem. A breakdown of the budget below:

• Nearly $200 million through the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services will be used to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic, an 82 percent increase in state spending since 2011.

• This investment includes $66 million for residential treatment beds, including counseling and support services for roughly 8,000 individuals.

• $38 million to fund medication-assisted treatment programs that serve about 12,000 clients in residential or outpatient settings.

• $25 million in funding for state-operated addiction treatment centers.

• $24 million for outpatient services that provide group and individual counseling.

• $8 million for crisis/detox programs to manage and treat withdrawal from heroin and opioids.

NYS Heroin and Opioid Task Force

Comprised of health care providers, policy advocates, educators, parents and New Yorkers in recovery, the task force will build on the state’s previous efforts and use its expertise and first-hand experience to develop a comprehensive action plan to combat the state’s opioid epidemic. The task force will focus immediately on expanding awareness of heroin and opioid addiction; enhance statewide prevention efforts; increase access to treatment; improve support for those in recovery; and concentrate on law enforcement recommendations to reduce the supply of opioids. Members plan to hold public sessions across the state.

Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, 2016

• Signed into law by President Barack Obama (D) in July.

• $8.3 billion in addiction funding.

• $160 million for the expansion of medication-assisted treatment options, including grants that will be awarded to state, local and tribal governments to provide opioid abuse services.

• $80 million in funding to help prevent and treat addiction on a local level through community-based education, prevention, treatment and recovery programs.

• $103 million to establish a community-based competitive grant program to address and treat the problems of heroin and opioid addiction and abuse.

• Grants will help fund programs that could expand treatment alternatives to incarcerations — with consent of attorneys and participants — for individuals who meet the program’s criteria.

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Photo from SCPD
Edison Cabrera of Port Jefferson Station. Photo from SCPD

A .45 caliber handgun, ammunition, $20,000 in cocaine and heroin, and more than $12,000 in cash were seized by Suffolk County Police Department detectives from a home on Champlain Street in Port Jefferson Station at about 2 a.m. Sept. 16, according to Suffolk County Police.

The owner of the home, Edison Cabrera, 33, was arrested and charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia and second-degree criminal contempt. Attorney information for Cabrera was not immediately available.

The seizure was the result of the execution of a search warrant following an investigation into an illegal weapon at the home.

“The Suffolk County Police Department will not waver in our commitment to take illegal guns and drugs off of Suffolk County streets,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said in a statement. “We are dedicated and determined to follow every credible lead, work with our law enforcement partners at every level of government and continue to create new innovative initiatives, such as our Firearm Suppression Team and narcotics hotline, to keep our residents safe.”

A woman Nicole sits on the grass in Port Jefferson remembering those who were lost to and those who survived heroin addiction during the third annual Lights of Hope event on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan

Rebecca Anzel

When Daniel Scofield died in 2011 from a heroin overdose, his mother Dori decided to do something.

“I wasn’t going to keep [his death] under the carpet,” she said. “I just said, ‘I’ve got to bring this out into the world. My son was my life and I’m not going to bury his addiction with him. I have to help others. I have to bring awareness.’”

In April 2014, the founder of Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center started Dan’s Foundation for Recovery, a not-for-profit organization that provides assistance to those suffering from alcohol or substance abuse. The group uses its donations to help an addict get help — it assists addicts in covering insurance copayments, treatment and travel costs to recovery centers in other states.

Scofield co-hosted Lights of Hope on Aug. 31 at Memorial Park in Port Jefferson. The event, which is in its third year, brought together families and friends to remember those who died from a drug overdose and to support those who are recovering from drug addiction.

Lit luminaires light up the night during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan
Lit luminaires light up the night during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan

The event’s other co-host was Public Relations Director Debbie Gross Longo of the New York Chapter of Magnolia New Beginnings, an advocacy, education, support and addiction resource group.

“Each year, unfortunately the crowd gets bigger,” Longo said. “We lose about 129 kids a day throughout the United States. This is something that is an epidemic. It has gotten out of control and there’s no reason for it.”

Longo’s son was a soccer player at Ward Melville High School. He was so talented, she said, he was being scouted by colleges. That was before he tore his quadricep.

The doctors at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson prescribed him oxycodone, and he became addicted. The price per pill of oxycodone is expensive — about $45 each, Longo said. So he switched to heroin, a much less expensive but more potent drug. Before long, his personality began to change.

“The changes happened pretty quickly until I couldn’t ignore it any longer, and that’s when he went to rehab,” she said. “It didn’t work the first time, it didn’t work the second time and it didn’t work the third time.”

Longo said her son is now living in a sober community in Florida helping other addicts get into recovery.

According to a 2015 New York State Opioid Poisoning, Overdose and Prevention report, there were 337 heroin-related deaths in Suffolk County between 2009 and 2013 — more than any other county in the state during that period.

“We come together to celebrate the lives they lived, we’re celebrating the recovery and we’re celebrating the people who are still struggling. We will never give up hope. Where there is life, there is hope.”

—Tracey Budd

In a brief speech at the Lights for Hope event, Scofield stressed the importance of helping those addicted to the drug get into recovery. Earlier that day, she said, she helped a young girl who lost her mother get into the Long Island Center for Recovery in Hampton Bays as well as three other young people get into a rehabilitation facility in Arizona.

In starting Dan’s Foundation, Scofield “wanted mostly to help kids that sought treatment now — not 10 days from now,” she said. “In 20 minutes, they’re gone. You have a small window of opportunity to help them and you’ve got to do it when you can do it.”

Scofield’s son David, 28, went through heroin recovery. His mom said her sons were best friends and they did everything together, including using heroin.

“I struggled with this disease for a long time,” he said to those who attended the Lights for Hope event. “I found a way to live sober. I found a different way to live my life.”

Event attendees decorated white paper bags with the name of a loved one who died from heroin or who recovered from it, and a message. Toward the end of the evening, a candle was placed inside each bag, and they were arranged in a large circle around the cannon in the park.

“We come together to celebrate the lives they lived, we’re celebrating the recovery and we’re celebrating the people who are still struggling,” Tracey Budd, a Rocky Point resident and founder of North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates, said. “We will never give up hope. Where there is life, there is hope.”

Budd’s son Kevin died in September 2012 from a heroin overdose. Her daughter Breanna has been drug-free since May 2014.

She said the stigma of addiction has changed dramatically since 2008 at the height of her son’s struggle with heroin. There is now a community of families that support each other through a child’s struggle with addiction or an addict’s death.

Tracey Budd, a Rocky Point resident and founder of North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates, displays her luminaire in memory of her son Kevin during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan
Tracey Budd, a Rocky Point resident and founder of North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates, displays her luminaire in memory of her son Kevin during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan

“It’s sad to say, but when you feel the hug of another mother who’s lost a child, even if you’ve never met, no words need to be spoken,” Budd said. “It’s a connection that we wish we didn’t have, but we do, and it’s actually pretty amazing.”

Middle Island resident Hugh Rhodus said the worst part of the heroin problem on Long Island is going to a funeral for a young person. He recently attended the funeral of a friend’s 24-year-old nephew.

“Going to a kid’s funeral is the hardest thing, but unfortunately we do it all the time,” he said. “It’s so hard to do. Kids that age laying in a casket is awful.”

Rhodus and his wife helped their daughter Amanda through her 13-year struggle with heroin. He said when they first tried to get her help, they took her to Mather Hospital, where they waited for a couple of hours after speaking with a nurse in a “room in the back.” Eventually, they were told to go to a hospital in Nassau County because Mather Hospital was unable to help Amanda.

“It’s your daughter, she’s sick, she’s a drug addict and that’s how we found out how powerful the stigma was,” Rhodus said. “We fought for years to get her in and out of treatment — it was tough. It was really tough.”

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) praised families and recovering addicts for not giving up.

“We can’t give up,” she said. “Everybody has to be engaged and participate because it is our lives and our children’s lives and our loved ones lives that’s on the line.”

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It is hard to believe that summer is almost over and everyone with children is getting back on the school track. Colleges around the country are in full swing. Elementary schools, middle schools and high schools have students beginning in each for the first time. Family life has returned hopefully to normalcy — whatever that means!

The beginning of the new school year is always an excellent time for reflection, reassessment and evaluation regarding the things that are most important in most of our lives.

The present political landscape is probably the most combative and explosive in this century. Our children are witnessing a public discourse that is more than disturbing not because of the ideas and issues being discussed but rather because of the demeaning language being used that is discriminating and bordering on hate rather than unity.

Each new school year is an opportunity for parents to clarify their expectations of their children from participating in family life, to school expectations and social behavior.

Parents should not be afraid to set clear expectations in each area. It is not unreasonable to expect children who live at home to join in the family dinner, without smartphones, headsets or iPods. Dinner time should be an opportunity to share and support each other — a time to laugh and catch up on what is happening in each family member’s life.

It is not unreasonable to have a weekday curfew and a weekend curfew for your children living at home who are in middle school and/or high school. It can be adjusted based on age and grade and should be flexible enough to be adapted based on a son or daughter’s social activities. Parents who have students in elementary, junior and senior high school should restrict their children’s use of the internet. Parents should know to which social media their children connect.

Social media can be an excellent tool or a weapon of human and emotional destruction. Cyberbullying is becoming epidemic everywhere. If your knowledge of social media is limited or nonexistent, get educated. Most school districts sponsor valuable workshops in this regard.

As the new school year unfolds, you need to talk very seriously with your children about their social behavior and their social choices. Do not delude yourself. Your junior and senior high school students are increasingly more sexually active. They need to act in this regard respectfully and protectively. Ignorance is no excuse.

Drinking and drug use continued to be a problem in our community. Underage drinking is dangerous and can become reckless. Too many teenagers are under the influence of alcohol at parties when they are first introduced to opiates and other dangerous drugs.

The heroin epidemic is now a national health crisis. In our own community the clergy are burying at least one young person a week who has overdosed on heroin.

Don’t let your children fool you; oftentimes when they are using illegal substances they will drink a few swigs of beer before they get home so that they make you think that they are just drinking and as a parent you take a sigh of relief and say to yourself at least it’s not drug use!

As parents, we need to be more vigilant and diligent in our parenting. It is definitely among the most challenging and rewarding occupations. Our children are counting on us!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

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Geoff, Bob, Karen and Patrick Engel hosted the Hoops for Hope event in memory of their family member. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

In the face of tragedy, there’s one of two directions you can go. You can react to it optimistically and see what good can come out of it, or you can let it control your life and pin you down. The Engel family, of Miller Place, refuses to be pinned down. In fact, they’re well on their way to making great strides in their community.

Tuesday marked the 2nd Annual Jake Engel Hoops for Hope fundraiser at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai — a day of competitive basketball all in the memory of a wonderful student and athlete taken too soon.

After Engel’s passing from a heroin overdose last year, his younger brother Patrick acted quickly and — with the help of his family and friends — put the event together in just a few short days, raising more than $5,000 for Hope House Ministries, a center in Port Jefferson where Jake Engel lived for two years, which provides care to young people and families in crisis.

Friends take to the court for some 3-on-3 basketball action in support of Jake Engel, a Miller Place resident who died of a heroin overdose last year, during the second annual Hoops for Hope fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding
Friends take to the court for some 3-on-3 basketball action in support of Jake Engel, a Miller Place resident who died of a heroin overdose last year, during the second annual Hoops for Hope fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding

Knowing that they wanted to expand on what they accomplished last year, the Engel family — Bob, Karen, Geoff and Patrick — set out to raise money this time around not just for Hope House but for the development of a scholarship at Miller Place High School and nonprofit organization in their son and brother’s name.

“We wanted something that was actually about Jake — In his name, dedicated to him,” said Patrick Engel. “Hope House is wonderful and we love Hope House … but we want something separate from it to remember him more personally.”

Both programs-to-be are in the beginning stages, but even though the qualifiers for the scholarship are not set in stone quite yet, the core mission certainly is. The Engel family is determined to raise awareness about the all-too prevalent drug problem sweeping Long Island and wants to do everything they can to prevent any drug-related tragedies in the future.

“The idea behind the scholarship and nonprofit is to be educating kids in the school district about these types of things,” said Geoff Engel, Jake Engel’s brother. “So we thought that setting up a scholarship would be a good way to promote that. The nonprofit could also hopefully provide housing for kids who are not able to get into rehabs or other types of organizations.”

Bob Engel, Jake Engel’s father, is especially determined to zero in on youth.

“Kids have to be educated,” he said. “It’s out of control out there, and I really want to gear everything toward the younger kids. They gotta get it in their head. Start in 5th grade with lectures every month and a half. The drug dealers aren’t going away no matter what, so at this point it’s about the education of younger people. The community needs to know what’s going on. [Hoops for Hope] is a good thing. This money is going toward educating these kids.”

Karen Engel, Jake Engel’s mother, said the family is still finalizing the details of the scholarship but are thinking of awarding it to someone who has overcome adversity and who does well academically because “that was Jake.”

“He was a very good student and loved his academics, and school and learning,” she said. “So that’s kind of the direction we’re going in.”

She hopes that both the scholarship and organization will encourage more people to become actively involved.

Geoff Engel plays some hoops in support of his brother Jake, who died last year of a heroin overdose. Photo by Kevin Redding
Geoff Engel plays some hoops in support of his brother Jake, who died last year of a heroin overdose. Photo by Kevin Redding

If this year’s fundraiser was any indication, people are ready to turn their attention to this issue.

Geoff Engel said that while last year’s fundraiser was very spontaneous and slapped together quickly, this year’s was a lot more organized.

“We’ve done a much better job promoting the event,” said Geoff Engel, who recently appeared on 103.9 WRCN-FM to spread the word. “We’re really hoping to raise at least twice as much as last year. It’s a much bigger event.”

For starters, last year’s basketball tournament had about 15 teams of 3, and this year boasted 26, with a donation of $15 per team to participate. But the event’s biggest source of income came with the addition of event T-shirts at $10 each, provided by the company Inkterprise, and a raffle.

Some of the donated items included a 32-inch flat-screen TV, a 3-month membership to Planet Fitness and a car care basket with three auto inspections provided by Rapid Inc. The Town of Brookhaven also supported the fundraiser and donated four box seat tickets to the Yankee game this upcoming Saturday, a $100 Modell’s gift card and the basketball court at Cedar Beach, waiving the standard $400 fee to rent it.

“I live right next door in Rocky Point and so many communities on the North Shore have been devastated with overdoses,” said Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point). “We decided to take a stronger role this year … we all collectively decided to roll up our sleeves and become more involved and bring more awareness.”

For the Engel family, whose constant strength and selflessness has perpetuated this call for awareness, the focus is making sure the scholarship and nonprofit organizations get off the ground. If things go as planned, that should be the case by graduation next year.

“We’re trying to do anything we can just so people will talk about it,” Karen Engel said. “We want people to be aware that they can reach out to get help.”

This version corrects the spelling of the company name Inkterprise.

Drug busts are becoming more common in Suffolk County. Above, drugs and other items seized during one such bust. File photo

It is no secret that Suffolk County, New York State and the United States as a whole have a rapidly growing opioid, and especially, heroin problem on their hands. Suffolk County is frequently sited as one of the places in New York most susceptible to drug busts and overdoses. It is a complex problem that sometimes feels like plugging holes in a sinking ship with bubble gum to lawmakers and uniformed police officers charged with lessening the impact of drugs on the community.

To the Suffolk County Police Department’s credit, they haven’t shied away from trying some outside the box methods to combat heroin and opioid addiction. In April, Suffolk County Crime Stoppers launched an anonymous narcotics tip phone line to help enlist the community in rooting out drug users and sellers in their vicinity.

The tip line helped lead to the arrest, in June, of two brothers living in Mount Sinai who had a treasure trove of weaponry, bomb-making instructions, cash and drugs in their home. In July, 24 people were arrested in connection with a drug ring in Hauppauge that yielded four kilograms of heroin and fentanyl.

The success of the hotline, which has received more than 900 calls since its inception, proves that the onus is on all of us to do our part in alleviating our community’s drug problem.

The department hosted a benefit concert at The Emporium in Patchogue July 28 to raise money for rewards given to those who provide tips to the hotline that result in arrests, and it’s imperative that we continue to support this resource as it has already proven its worth. That’s not to say that without the reward money, you shouldn’t say something if you see something. Community members hold most of the power in their hands to help our officers in cleaning up our streets.

Until we as a community recognize that this is a problem for everyone, even if the overdosing teen down the street isn’t a family member, the bubble gum approach will not stop the ship from sinking.

Summertime provides an opportunity to slow down, renew our energy and get ready for the intensity of the fall. These summer days encourage us to relax and enjoy those beautiful summer breezes and those sunny days.

We all need time to renew and refresh our energy. However, we still must be vigilant when it comes to parenting our children and attentive to what is happening in our world. Too often during the summer parents relax their rules and give their teenage children a little slack. The challenge is to find the balance. Too often during this time, parents turn a blind eye to serious social circumstances. Underage teenage drinking escalates. There are more parties to attend, more opportunities to socialize at the beach, on the boat, at the park and going to concerts, just to name a few.

Too many parents see teenage drinking as a rite of American passage. Unfortunately, my experiences document that more and more teenagers are under the influence of alcohol when they first try illegal drugs like heroin.

Heroin use within our community is escalating daily. Young people of privilege even have this drug delivered to their home. Parents need to be more vigilant. The local clergy have indicated that in their respective congregations they are burying at least one young person a month who has died because of a heroin overdose — that is tragic!

If we are going to turn the tide on this devastating health crisis, we need to form a coalition of concerned persons who are willing to demand change from our insurance companies and from our government leaders. We need more detox and long-term treatment beds today — not tomorrow, not next year, today! Enough with the political lip service to this serious life issue.

This summer we’re getting a real education in American civics. It is a very disturbing lesson! Both major parties have formally nominated their candidate for president of the United States. The money that is being wasted on negative campaigning is shameful. Attacking the character and integrity of each party’s candidate is a real distraction from the real issues that we as a nation must confront.

Our political landscape is wrought with land mines that do nothing but distract us from what is important and blur the real truth. This political season has been embarrassing. It seems to be more fixated on divisiveness than unity. We are a nation blessed with diversity; we need to work harder at building bridges instead of walls between us.

Both candidates should commit themselves to a language of respect, inclusiveness, human rights, social justice and equality for all Americans. Yes, this election needs to address our racial divide. It needs to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and socioeconomics, loss of respect for law enforcement, our broken and inhumane immigration system, our deteriorating schools, the cost of college education, our position on the world stage, international terrorism and the renewed violence in our nation.

Whoever we elect as president of the United States in November must bring us together as one nation founded on freedom and respect for all citizens no matter what our human circumstance. He or she must give voice to every American!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Narcan, a drug that stops opioid overdoses. File photo by Jessica Suarez

“[CARA] is the culmination of so many families that had to lose loved ones over the last several years.” —Steve Chassman

Help is on the way, as President Barack Obama (D) signed a multibillion dollar bill into law this week that takes aim at the growing drug abuse problem facing many North Shore residents and families.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 is an $8.3 billion plan to fight drug addiction in the United States, with a significant amount of funding for prevention and treatment.

Obama said in a statement last Friday though, that he feels the bill could have gone further with funding for prevention.

“This legislation includes some modest steps to address the opioid epidemic,” he said. “Given the scope of this crisis, some action is better than none.” However, Obama was critical of the amount of money allotted for treatment options.

CARA funding includes $160 million for the expansion of medication-assisted treatment options, including grants that will be awarded to state, local and tribal governments to provide opioid abuse services. These grants will help fund programs that could expand treatment alternatives to incarcerations — with consent of attorneys and participants — for individuals who meet the program’s criteria.

Funding will also help develop, implement and expand prevention programs and training for first responders to administer opioid overdose reversal drugs, like Narcan. It will also fund investigations of unlawful opioid distribution activities.

Obama said he is committed to ensuring that support continues for individuals and families who are struggling with drug addiction.

President Barack Obama said he wanted even more funding for treatment. File photo
President Barack Obama said he wanted even more funding for treatment. File photo

“I have heard from too many families across the country whose lives have been shattered by this epidemic … I’m going to continue fighting to secure the funding families desperately need,” he said. “In recent days, the law enforcement community, advocates, physicians and elected officials from both sides of the aisle have also joined in this call.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is a co-sponsor of the bill, has been vocal about asking the Senate and the president to pass the bill, after it went through the House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 407 to 5 in mid-July. It was passed by the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 92 to 2 the following week.

“Our communities and families on Long Island have been severely impacted by the rise of prescription drug abuse and the growing epidemic of heroin, and I will continue working with local elected officials, law enforcement, health professionals, community groups, parents, concerned residents and those in recovery to discuss and develop a more localized solution to address this crisis by increasing treatment and recovery services, education, and stopping the influx of illegal substances,” he said in a statement on Monday.

Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said the law is “arguably the most comprehensive bill” out there concerning the combat against drug abuse.

“It is heavy in education, prevention and treatment,” he said. “We are not just going to incarcerate our way out of this. [CARA] deals with this crisis as the crisis is.”

Chassman has attended multiple drug forums, prevention talks and community meetings on this growing problem, and said the new law is “the culmination of so many families that had to lose loved ones over the last several years.”

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

Major change may be coming to the North Shore, as a drug abuse bill is set to land on U.S. President Barack Obama’s (D) desk this week.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is a co-sponsor of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which plans to spend $8.3 billion to help combat widespread drug addiction, especially addiction to heroin, on Long Island.

“As addiction and overdose deaths continue to climb, tearing families apart, it is essential that the President sign CARA into law to start delivering help to those suffering,”
— Lee Zeldin

CARA passed through the House of Representatives last week with a bipartisan vote of 407 to 5, and the Senate this week with a bipartisan vote 92 to 2.

Zeldin, who is a member of The Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, said he has been a proud supporter of this bill for more than a year now, and is happy to see Congress backing it.

“With both House and Senate passage of CARA, a bill that I proudly cosponsor, we are now only one step away from this bill being signed into law,” Zeldin said in a statement. “78 people [lose] their life every day as a result of an opioid or heroin overdose. Last year — on Long Island alone — 442 people died of a heroin or opiate overdose, up from 403 overdose deaths the year before. As addiction and overdose deaths continue to climb, tearing apart families and communities, it is essential that the President sign CARA into law to start delivering help to those suffering.”

The specifics of CARA include $80 million in funding to help prevent and treat addiction on a local level through community-based education, prevention, treatment and recovery programs; $160 million for the expansion of medication-assisted treatment options; and $103 million to establish a community-based competitive grant program to address and treat the problems of heroin and opioid addiction and abuse. Additional funding will help supply po lice forces and emergency medical responders with higher quantities of naloxone, known more commonly as Narcan, a medication that is proven to reverse an opioid overdose.

Another part of CARA’s funding focuses on pain management and prescription.

According to the bill, the Department of Health and Human Services is required to assemble a Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force, which will review, modify, and update the best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication, and examine and identify the need for, development, and availability of medical alternatives to opioids.

The grant aspect of CARA is connected to the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. CARA is set to amend that bill to authorize the Department of Justice to award grants to state, local and tribal governments to provide opioid-abuse services, including enhancing collaboration between criminal justice and substance abuse agencies; developing, implementing and expanding programs to prevent, treat, or respond to opioid abuse; training first responders to administer opioid overdose reversal drugs; and investigating unlawful opioid distribution activities.

The North Shore is not immune to the heroin crisis. According to a New York State Opioid Poisoning, Overdose and Prevention Report from 2015, Suffolk County has the highest heroin-related overdose fatalities of any county in New York.

Zeldin has co-sponsored several other bills in the House on this issue.

“While there is not just one piece of legislation that will solve this crisis, we must always continue our fight to provide our local communities with the resources necessary to help stop and prevent drug abuse through treatment, enforcement, and education,” he said.