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Opiate

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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.”

People at an anti-drug forum stay afterward to learn how to use the anti-overdose medication Narcan. Above, someone practices spraying into a dummy’s nostrils. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The Suffolk County Police Department handed out dozens of overdose rescue kits in the Port Jefferson high school on Monday night, at the conclusion of a crowded drug abuse prevention forum geared toward educating parents.

“We have to double-down on prevention,” said Tim Sini, a deputy county commissioner for public safety who has recently been nominated for police commissioner.

People at an anti-drug forum stay afterward to learn how to use the anti-overdose medication Narcan. Above, Jim Laffey assembles a syringe. Photo by Elana Glowatz
People at an anti-drug forum stay afterward to learn how to use the anti-overdose medication Narcan. Above, Jim Laffey assembles a syringe. Photo by Elana Glowatz

He and other officials from the police department, medical examiner’s office and community spoke at the forum to inform parents about the dangers of drug abuse, including how kids get introduced to and hooked on drugs in the first place. Much of the discussion focused on opioid drugs, which include heroin as well as prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet, and on the lifesaving Narcan, an anti-overdose medication that blocks opioid receptors in the brain and can stop an overdose of those types of drugs.

According to Dr. Scott Coyne, the SCPD’s chief surgeon and medical director, in the three years since Suffolk officers have been trained to administer Narcan — the well-known brand name for naloxone — they have used it successfully 435 times.

Attendees who stayed after the forum were able to register in the police department’s public Narcan program and receive a kit with two doses of the medication, which can be sprayed into an overdose victim’s nostrils.

Narcan training classes are coming up
Want to learn how to use Narcan, the medication that stops an opioid overdose in its tracks? Training courses are taking place across Suffolk County over the next couple of months, including in Port Jefferson and in neighboring Centereach.

Narcan, the brand name of naloxone, blocks receptors in the brain to stop overdoses of drugs like heroin, Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin or Demerol, among others. It can be administered through a nasal spray and will not cause harm if mistakenly given to someone who is not suffering an opioid overdose.

The local training sessions meet state health requirements, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, and will teach trainees to recognize opioid overdoses, to administer Narcan and to take other steps until emergency medical personnel arrive on the scene. All participants will receive a certificate of completion and an emergency kit that includes Narcan.

The first course will be held on Monday, Dec. 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the county’s Office of Health Education in Hauppauge, at 725 Veterans Highway, Building C928. RSVP to 631-853-4017 or [email protected]

In Centereach, a course will take place on Friday, Jan. 15, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Middle Country library at 101 Eastwood Blvd. RSVP before Jan. 11 at [email protected] or at 631-585-9393 ext. 213.

Later that month, Hope House Ministries will host another Narcan training session in its facility at 1 High St. in Port Jefferson, in the Sister Aimee Room. That event, held in conjunction with the Port Jefferson ambulance company, will take place on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 10 a.m. Call 631-928-2377 for more information or register at https://pjvac.enrollware.com/enroll?id=952865.

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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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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.

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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 [email protected]