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Narcan

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Danielle Wisnieski mugshot from SCPD

Police allege a pregnant woman was on drugs when she overturned and crashed her car in Kings Park the night before Thanksgiving.

The 26-year-old, Danielle Wisnieski, who is also 26 weeks pregnant, according to the Suffolk County Police Department, was driving north on Indian Head Road at the time of the crash. Police said she lost control of the vehicle, a 2003 Cadillac Escalade, near the intersection with Old Northport Road and overturned just after 8 p.m.

Paramedics treated her at the scene, police said, and administered Narcan, a medication that is used to block the effects of opioids like heroin and Vicodin and is commonly used to reverse overdoses.

The driver, a Kings Park resident, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital to be treated for minor injuries. The passenger in her car, a 34-year-old Kings Park resident, was treated for minor injuries as well at Huntington Hospital.

No other cars were involved in the crash.

Wisnieski was arrested and charged with driving while impaired by drugs.

Attorney information for the suspect was not immediately available, and she was scheduled to be arraigned at a later date.

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Smithtown Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Bradshaw. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

On Tuesday, Dec. 1, Smithtown Central School District, in conjunction with the Suffolk County Police Department, its PTAs and Project Presence, will host an important community forum, “The Ugly Truth: Heroin and Prescription Drug Education and Awareness.”

The forum, which is open to all Smithtown community residents, begins at 7 p.m. at Smithtown High School West, 100 Central Road, Smithtown. Content to be discussed is most appropriate for children aged 15 years and older.

During the event, attendees will be provided with information on the dangers of prescription medication and heroin abuse, how to recognize the signs of drug abuse among teenagers and tools and actions parents can take to help their child.

The program will also feature a question and answer period and training on Narcan, a prescription medication that can reverse an overdose by blocking the effects of opioids. Additionally, SCPD’s Operation Medicine Cabinet will be on hand to safely discard expired or unwanted prescription medication.

“Our goal is to increase education and awareness and build protective factors and preventative skills for families with a series of follow-up workshops,” said Jennifer Bradshaw, Smithtown Central School District assistant superintendent for instruction.

File photo

The issue of drug abuse will be brought to the forefront in a few weeks, as the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees dedicates its next meeting to a community discussion on the topic.

That meeting on Dec. 7 is being moved to Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, where school, village and police officials will meet for a forum called The Ugly Truth.

“Although we have all read and heard the headlines about heroin in our neighborhoods and the dangers of easy access to powerful prescription medication, we rarely hear The Ugly Truth behind these headlines,” according to a flyer advertising the joint event.

Suffolk County Police Department officials, including the chief medical examiner and a school resource officer, will tell parents the signs of heroin and prescription drug abuse among teenagers and what can be done about it.

The village trustees will hold their work session meeting at 6 p.m. that day at the high school on Old Post Road, then attend the forum at 7 p.m. in lieu of holding a public comment period at Village Hall as usual. The public comment period will instead be held at the board’s following meeting, on Dec. 21.

Drug addiction and abuse is a topic that hits home in all Long Island communities, but it has been a particular point of friction in Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station because of a visible homeless population and the presence of various community services catering to that group, such as a soup kitchen network and a homeless shelter.

John Martin demonstrates how to use intranasal Narcan in Northport. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Northport High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions will be dedicating more than a week to raising awareness of drug and alcohol abuse by hosting programs to cultivate prevention and support recovery beginning on Thursday.

Known as the Northport-East Northport Recovery, Awareness and Prevention Week, the programs kick off at the Northport American Legion Hall on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., where families will gather to share their experiences with addiction. The Suffolk County Police Department will also provide Narcan training for the community.

The weekend will feature drug take-back programs at local libraries. The take-back campaign, manned by the village police department, will start at the Northport Public Library on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and continue on Sunday, Oct. 25, from 1 to 5 p.m.

The county police department’s 2nd Precinct will also man a post at the East Northport Public Library on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Residents are able to participate in an anonymous drug drop-off, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at each police precinct, according a press release by the high school’s SADD club.

The club has partnered with the Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force, the office of county Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), the village police and the county police’s 2nd Precinct to host these events.

Darryl St. George, a social studies teacher at Northport-East Northport school district, is a SADD club adviser. He became involved with the cause after losing his brother Corey to a drug overdose.

In an interview this week, St. George said he feels the week’s events, particularly the Narcan training and the drug take-back program, would make a great impact through helping train people in potentially saving lives and by taking drugs off the streets — drugs that put lives at risk.

“I think that this is very meaningful,” St. George said. “I think that this is one of those events that will have very real results.”

Ending on Thursday, Oct. 29, there will be a number of events at the schools in the district and this year, for the first time, programs will take place at elementary school level.

“Of course the message will be delivered in an age-appropriate way, but nevertheless the message will be the same — say ‘no’ to drugs,” he said.

The programs will culminate in a press conference outside the Northport Village Hall, where officials will report the results to the community.

The large numbers behind opioid-related deaths and Narcan saves justifies the need for these kinds of events, St. George said. According to a recent statement from the office of County Executive Steve Bellone (D), there were more than 250 opioid-related deaths in Suffolk County and 493 Narcan saves in 2014.

“This week, specifically, the Narcan training and the drug take-back program give me a renewed sense of hope that we are doing something that will have tangible results,” Tammy Walsh, a SADD adviser said in a statement. “The drugs we are taking off the streets could stop a kid from overdosing or possibly getting addicted. The Narcan training we are providing is empowering people to be in a position to save lives. We are still in this fight.”

For questions about these events, contact St. George at darryl.stgeorge@northport.k12.ny.us.

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

Suffolk County is hosting a Narcan training class to teach residents how to administer the life-saving drug that stops opioid overdoses.

According to the county health department, the training class meets New York State requirements and will teach attendees how to recognize and overdose on opioids such as heroin and Vicodin. They will also learn how to administer Narcan through an overdose victim’s nose and what additional steps to take until emergency medical personnel arrive on the scene.

Participants who complete the training will receive a certificate and an emergency resuscitation kit that contains Narcan, also known as naloxone.

The class will be held on Monday, Sept. 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Office of Health Education in the North County Complex, 725 Veterans Highway, Bldg. C928, Hauppauge.

For more information on the class, contact Wanda Ortiz at 631-853-4017 or wanda.ortiz@suffolkcountyny.gov.

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

Rep. Lee Zeldin took to Kings Park on Sunday to join the fight against drug abuse, an issue that is plaguing communities on Long Island and across the nation.

Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced his backing of two bills in Congress — the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015, H.R. 953, and the Stop Overdose Stat Act, H.R. 2850 — which seek to help those struggling with drug abuse and prevent future abuse. Zeldin is co-sponsoring both bills.

“It’s clear we must come together as a community and a nation to combat this growing issue,” Zeldin said.

According to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, the percentage of state high school students who reported use of heroin more than doubled between 2005 and 2011, from 1.8 percent to 4 percent.

“We can’t treat them and street them, which is what is currently happening in our emergency rooms,” said Linda Ventura, treasurer of Families in Support of Treatment, known as F.I.S.T., a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and educating families which are struggling with a loved one’s addiction. “There should be no more shame with someone struggling with this disease, no, stigma — that has to go.”

Ventura, who is also involved with the Suffolk County Prevention Resource Center, is more than just a member of activist groups. She lost her son, Thomas, in March 2012 to drugs.

Bill 953 would help people grappling with drug abuse obtain the services needed to put them on the road to recovery. It would provide up to $80 million in the form of grant funding to help treat and prevent addiction through community-based education and prevention programs, and treatment and recovery programs.

The grants would further help expand prescription drug monitoring programs and provide police forces and emergency medical responders with higher supplies of Narcan, a prescription drug that reverses opioid overdoses.

The legislation has 20 co-sponsors — both Democrats and Republicans — and was introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

“It’s a good bill on its merits alone, and it doesn’t matter what names or letters are attached to it,” Zeldin said.

Bill 2850 would provide an additional $25 million over a five-year period for Narcan production and distribution and provide more medical professionals and families with the lifesaving drug.

The act, introduced by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), would also establish a preventative research task force that would look into ways to prevent future overdose deaths, while taking a preventative approach against drug abuse.

Zeldin was joined by members of the community including Suffolk County Legislators Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) and Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset); Kim Revere, president of Kings Park in the kNOw, a task force promoting a drug-free community; and Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer of Phoenix House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. The congressman wanted to show the only way to win the battle was to remain united.

Like Ventura, the fight was personal for some of those in attendance at Sunday’s press conference.

“I lost my son, Timothy, in August of 2009 after a 14-month struggle with prescription drugs, which eventually led to heroin,” said Teri Kroll, secretary for F.I.S.T.’s board of directors and a member of the resource center. “He passed away after eight and a half months of sobriety.”

Saji Francis, the doctor who prescribed Timothy the drug he eventually became addicted to, was arrested shortly after Timothy passed away. In 2010, Francis was convicted of illegally selling prescription pills and sentenced to six months in jail.

Kolodny, who also serves as the director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, explained how many people start abusing drugs after taking prescription medications.

“To control this epidemic we need to prevent new people from getting this disease, and treat those who are suffering,” he said. “We also need to get doctors and dentists to prescribe more cautiously. If not, these overdose levels with continue to rise.”

John Martin demonstrates how to administer Narcan at a training session in Northport. File photo by Rohma Abbas

The Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force wants to recruit 18- to 25-year-olds in the fight against drug addiction and fatal overdoses.

Next week, the group will host a workshop that will train participants in administrating Narcan, a drug that thwarts opioid overdoses. Task force leaders say they hope to attract members of a young age group to attend because those individuals have the highest overdose statistics locally.

The workshop is on Wednesday, June 17, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Northport Public Library. This training session and hands-on workshop is hosted by the task force, and will be run by the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The training is easy to understand and free for anyone who registers.

“I want to equip the kids with the awareness and knowledge to battle this ongoing problem the youth today is dealing with,” Anthony Ferrandino, co-chair of the task force, said this week.

Narcan is a prescription drug that reverses an opioid overdose. An opioid describes drugs like heroin, morphine and oxycodone. Narcan cannot be used to get high and is not addictive. It also has no known negative side effects, so it is completely safe to administer this drug, even if there is uncertainty about a person having a drug overdose.

“The Northport [Village] Police Department has a 100 percent success rate for overdose victims when they have gotten to the scene in time,” Scott Norcott, the public relations coordinator for the task force, said in an interview.

In 2013 alone, there were 216 confirmed opioid-related deaths in Suffolk County, according to Ferrandino. In 2014, the number declined slightly to 167 deaths. More than half of the opiate deaths in 2013 were individuals in the 20-29 age group.

Ferrandino wants to focus on teaching kids not only how to administer the drug and the process of calling for help, but also the workings of the Good Samaritan laws. These laws protect the caller and the overdose victim from arrests for drug possession or being under the influence. Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have varying policies that provide immunity from arrests for minor drug-law violations by people who help on the scene.

“I don’t want them to be scared to call 911 — that is a common fear — that they don’t want to get in trouble for being at the scene at all, so they become fearful of calling for help,” Ferrandino said.

The training session will include instructions on how to administer Narcan. Each participant will be given a prescription that allows him or her to carry and administer Narcan wherever they are, along with a free kit. New York State covers the costs of Narcan and the training.

Ferrandino was motivated to spread the word about Narcan to as many 18- to 25-year-olds as possible by a former student who graduated from Northport High School. When she was at college, a student overdosed at a party she was at, and she felt that if she had been trained in Narcan administration, she could have helped save the student’s life.

The task force has participated in many programs this year to try and spread awareness of the rising number of drug overdoses in town. Recovery, awareness and prevention week is an annual series of events throughout the Northport-East Northport school district with forums and events to help students learn how to avoid drugs and how to help friends who might be struggling with addiction.

Narcan training sessions will also be held in Hauppauge at the Suffolk County Office of Health Education in the North County Complex on Veterans Memorial Highway on June 15 and 29, and July 20.

“Narcan is really a Band-Aid, it’s a great one, but the endgame here is to get the kids to hear the facts, to smarten them up and see the dangers, so that one day we won’t need the Narcan training,” Norcott said.

First responders saved three adults who overdosed together on Monday afternoon, using an anti-overdose medication that is administered through the nose.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, 4th Precinct police officers Daniel Sable, David Vlacich and Vincent Liberato responded to a 911 call reporting multiple people had been found unconscious at a Lake Ronkonkoma home. When officers arrived at the Kirby Lane home at about 4:15 p.m., they found two women and a man unconscious in an upstairs bedroom.

The officers worked with Lake Ronkonkoma Fire Department rescue personnel to carry the trio out of the house, police said, and the LRFD members administered Narcan, a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

The three victims — a 39-year-old female, a 43-year-old female and a 46-year-old male — regained consciousness, police said. They were listed in stable condition at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, can be administered either through the nose or intravenously. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is hosting a free Narcan training seminar later this month, with the goal of teaching local residents how to administer the drug that reverses opioid overdoses.

At the Comsewogue Public Library on March 31, starting at 7 p.m., community members will also learn how to identify an overdose and administer the lifesaving medication.

The seminar will take place in the community room of the library, located on Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station, and participants must be 18 years or older.

Hahn said in a press release that the training is important “because it is often the family and friends of a victim who are first on the scene when someone is overdosing.”

Those who wish to attend must pre-register by calling the legislator’s office at 631-854-1650.

Suffolk officers revive two people days after department puts overdose-ending medicine into police cars

File photo

Jeff Reynolds recently attended a funeral in Huntington for a young woman, a heroin addict who had gotten clean but died of an overdose after a relapse. Reynolds, the executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said two weeks later, the young woman’s boyfriend also died from an overdose.

Drug use has become more and more of a problem on Long Island in recent years. According to a special grand jury report from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, there were 231 overdose deaths from controlled substances in Suffolk County last year.

Opioid painkillers accounted for 75 percent of them.

But an initiative to combat opioid overdoses — from drugs like heroin, Vicodin and Percocet — is already showing promise, just days after it was launched. Suffolk County Police Department’s Michael Alfieri, an officer in the 7th Precinct, responded to a call of an overdose in Mastic Beach last week. According to the police, Alfieri found a 27-year-old man unresponsive and not breathing, and revived him by intranasally administering Naloxone, an opioid blocker known by its brand name, Narcan. The officer also gave the man oxygen before he was transported to the hospital. That overdose victim survived.

Officers Thomas Speciale and David Ferrara revived a woman in Lake Ronkonkoma who had overdosed on heroin on Aug. 5. The 4th Precinct officers responded to a 911 call at 1:20 pm and found the 21-year-old woman in a parked car, unresponsive and barely breathing, police said. Speciale administered Narcan and Ferrara provided additional medical care before the woman was transported to the hospital for treatment.

The New York State Department of Health piloted a program that allows those in certain counties, including Suffolk, with basic life support training, such as volunteer emergency medical technicians, to administer Narcan. Previously, it was limited to those with advanced life support training.

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) sponsored a bill, which the county Legislature adopted, that expanded this to include officers in the Suffolk County Police Department, many of whom have basic life support training. A police spokesperson said it is being piloted in the 4th, 6th and 7th Precincts and the Marine Bureau, and 267 officers have already been trained to administer the intranasal medicine.

“Our officers are first on the scene in virtually all medical emergencies,” Dr. Scott Coyne, SCPD’s chief surgeon and medical director, said in a phone interview. He said it is important that officers have resources like Narcan to treat people because “it’s really during those first critical minutes that they mean the difference between life and death, particularly in overdose situations.”

Last Monday was the first day the officers were on the street with Narcan, according to the police department. Alfieri saved the man who overdosed two days later, and Speciale and Ferrara saved the Lake Ronkonkoma woman on Sunday.

“There was one less mother grieving for her child,” Hahn said in a phone interview after the first incident. She expressed her hope that the program would save more lives in the future.

Reynolds said Narcan works by quickly surrounding opiate receptors, blocking the drug’s ability to access the brain. “The person will experience some withdrawal but the overdose will come to an immediate end.”

Other benefits of the medicine are that it’s inexpensive and there aren’t any negative consequences if it is administered to someone who has not overdosed on opioids, Reynolds said. Signs of an overdose include blue nail beds, blue lips, unconsciousness and the inability to remain upright.

Dr. Coyne said, “Undoubtedly this pilot program will be a great benefit to the citizens of the county and particularly it’s going to result in, I believe, many lifesaving events.” Dispatchers are receiving more and more calls about drug overdoses, he said, adding that 60 police cars now carry Narcan.

Other states have had success with similar programs. According to The Boston Globe, Narcan reversed more than 1,000 opioid overdoses in 12 Massachusetts cities between 2007 and 2011 through a pilot program that allowed substance abuse treatment centers to train people how to use the overdose antidote.

Dr. Coyne said the SCPD precincts piloting the Narcan program were selected because they appeared to have more overdoses. The Marine Bureau was chosen because it serves Fire Island, and the time it takes to transport someone to a hospital could be longer than in other places.

Dr. Coyne and Hahn both said they would like to see the local program expanded and Reynolds said Narcan “should be in every police car,” and even school nurses and parents of addicts should carry it.

For friends and family of those addicted to opioids, LICADD trains people to identify an overdose and administer Narcan through an injection into the leg — different from the police department’s aspirator — and sends trainees home with two vials of Narcan and two syringes.

Reynolds said the best way to prevent an overdose is to not use drugs in the first place, but that Narcan is an important measure in helping those struggling with addiction survive long enough to receive help.

He said Narcan “gives these kids a second shot.”