The path to overcoming opioid addiction will soon be just a phone call away, thanks to a new initiative that the Suffolk County Legislature announced last week.
A new full-service substance abuse hotline will serve as what officials called a lifeline to residents battling drug addiction, which lawmakers have been struggling to address across Long Island for years. To get there, the county teamed up with Stony Brook Medicine and the state’s health department as well as the county’s private and public community partners in the substance abuse field to allow residents to call to get screenings, referrals and follow-ups.
The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence will operate the 24-hour hotline and direct callers to those resources. Providing a single phone number to call for a myriad of resources and services is key to assisting those who are battling addiction and their families, officials said.
“Like many places in this country, Suffolk County is facing an opioid epidemic of historic proportions,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. “We need to tackle this epidemic on all fronts — including prevention, treatment and law enforcement.”
Bellone said his administration has made it a top priority to “explore and launch new, evidence-based tools” to help address the region’s fight against heroin and opioid use.
“The creation of a local 24/7 hotline is now another tool in our arsenal to assist those who are battling opioid and heroin addiction and their families,” he said.
The hotline will become live by April, Bellone said, and the Suffolk County health department will provide oversight and analyze data to monitor its effectiveness and identify trends and emerging issues in the community.
“Every second counts to a mother whose son or daughter was found and saved from overdosing,” said Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). The majority leader was the author of several laws credited with preventing more than 1,000 opioid overdoses in Suffolk County since the summer of 2012, including one that gave police access to Narcan, a medicine that stops such overdoses. “And every hour and every day that slips by trying to find quality, affordable, accessible treatment is critical.”
Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said the initiative is essential, as heroin deaths in the county have nearly tripled since 2010.
“This alarming data demands our immediate attention,” he said. “A centralized hotline for people in crisis is a critical step toward saving lives, but we must do more. My colleagues and I look forward to our continued work with both the county executive and officials from Nassau County as together we fight to stem Long Island’s heroin epidemic.”
County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) echoed the same sentiments and said the area’s substance abuse issue was pervasive and touched the lives of more than those who suffered from addiction.
“This initiative will provide [the] opportunity for addicts to reach out during their time of need and access treatment and support options easily,” he said. “Often, there is a critical and brief period of time when a person sees clarity and makes the decision to seek help. This hotline can be fertile ground for change and recovery as it can quickly link residents to crucial health care services.”