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Suffolk County legislator Kevin mccaffrey

File photo by Raymond Janis

America’s ‘war on opioids’

Fifteen years ago, a local 13-year-old boy died on his couch after overdosing from opioids. It was a shock to our community, and it set the ominous precedent for the opioid epidemic that has ravaged our country. As I often ask, why is it taking so long to stop the ever-increasing overdose deaths? Americans are dying inside our borders thanks to our adversaries who are funneling deadly drugs that have killed more Americans than multiple U.S. wars. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 1 million Americans have died from opioid overdoses. In 2023, over 100,000 Americans died of overdoses, including an estimated 366 from the powerful opioid fentanyl in Suffolk County. 

As the former Suffolk County Addiction Prevention and Support Advisory Panel chair, I can tell you firsthand that the “war on opioids” is not even close to being over, even as we see a slight decline in death rates. We need to see this epidemic as a real war that our adversaries are waging against us and use military force to stop the needless deaths of so many of our fellow Americans. Those actions include sanctions on China, a hard crackdown on drug cartels and the border, and a united front throughout this country to address the carnage of the drug epidemic. 

That means putting some of the proposed $850 billion in military spending toward our own internal “war on opioids.” The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma that produces OxyContin, cannot be shielded from liability. This decision holds the Sacklers accountable, however it also puts $6 billion in settlement funding, targeted to address the opioid epidemic, in jeopardy.

Let’s stop wasting time over political bashing and focus on what we need to do to make our country stronger and safer. We can end this war by uniting and finding effective strategies to identify drug dealers through law enforcement, providing services for those who need addiction and mental health support, and educating our kids on the dangers of opioids.

So much money has been made in legal and illegal opioid drug sales, yet no money can replace the loved ones we’ve lost who battled addiction and did not know they were casualties of America’s “war on opioids.” It’s time to end this war!

Sarah Anker

Former Suffolk County legislator and chair of Suffolk County’s Addiction Prevention and Support Advisory Panel. Current NYS Senate District 1 Democratic candidate.

A statement by Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey 

Violence has no place in our political process, whether in our capitols or on the campaign trail. We are thankful that former President Trump was not seriously harmed and we send our prayers to the loved ones of the rally spectators who were apparent victims of this callous assassination attempt. Kudos for the bravery and quick response of the Secret Service and members of law enforcement.

Kevin McCaffrey

Suffolk County Legislature

A statement from Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine

Hatred and acts of violence toward an elected official or candidate for office regardless of political affiliation have no place in this country. As Americans, we stand united on the principles that make our country strong. While there are no reported threats in Suffolk County at this time, my office will continue to monitor the situation.

Ed Romaine

Suffolk County Executive

Long Islanders gathered at Babylon Town Hall, above, to show support for Ukrainians. Photo by Carolyn Sackstein

Ukrainian and Russian émigrés, Ukrainian-Americans, local elected officials and Long Islanders of various political stripes demonstrated their support for the defense of Ukrainian sovereignty and against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal war initiated in the wee hours of Feb. 24 against Ukraine. 

Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey, below right, was on hand for the rally. Photo by Carolyn Sackstein

While some people rally together in their support for Ukraine, others find their way to church sanctuaries to offer prayers for the safety of Ukrainian soldiers and citizens, who are also taking up arms in defense of their homeland.

Anna Konny, from Vinnytsia, Ukraine, a dental hygienist and U. S. citizen, who lives in Woodmere, attended a rally in Lindenhurst at Babylon Town Hall with her aunt, Nataliya Soliternik, who lives now in Hewlett. 

Konny, draped in the Ukrainian flag, was a vocal advocate for those defending Vinnytsia, a city in west-central Ukraine. She has been able to stay in touch with family and friends who are still in Ukraine by using free calling cards provided by Verizon, T-Mobile and other major communication carriers. 

The dental hygienist showed photos of families using subway stations and basements of municipal buildings as bomb shelters. She claimed these shelters are also being used at night by saboteurs and Russian infiltrators as they hide among the patriots they seek to destroy. By day, these infiltrators use luminous paint to paint the roofs of buildings, barricades and other locations to be targeted during nighttime bombings and artillery shelling. 

Konny advocates for weapons and ammunition to be sent to those fighting from World War I-style trenches surrounding the cities and towns. Someone in the crowd asked if she feared reprisals. Konny’s answer was a firm, “No. If these photos get back to Ukraine, I want my friends and family to know that I stand with them.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), presiding officer of the Legislature, saw Konny and came over to hear her pleas for aid, both military and medical first aid materials. After speaking with Konny, McCaffrey addressed the crowd to resounding applause. “It is appalling what Vladimir Putin is doing, how he is attacking a sovereign nation like Ukraine,” he said. “It makes us wonder who is next. The Ukrainian people have done nothing to incur the wrath of Vladimir Putin. All of us are encouraged by the fight of the Ukrainian people, who are standing against this aggression. I believe the U.S. should do more to stand up for the Ukrainian people.”

Janet Byler, from Huntington, has children serving in the U. S. Army based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She felt compelled to attend the rally to support those serving with NATO forces in Europe. Mark Czachor, of West Babylon, said, “Every American should be supporting Ukraine’s fight. As long as we don’t give up, Putin can’t win.”

On Friday, Feb. 25, the Rev. Bohdan Hedz of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Riverhead opened the sanctuary to a resident of Texas, who was born and raised in the Riverhead area. He had returned recently to care for his very elderly parents. He had missed the service which had been celebrated earlier that day but was welcomed by Bohdan to pray in the quiet and intimate sanctuary. Unafraid of reprisals, the gentleman, who wished anonymity for personal privacy reasons, spoke of marrying his Ukrainian wife in Kyiv.

“My wife would leave today to take up arms,” he said. “The world is called to speak and to act. Ukraine will fight!”

During this conversation, a woman from the congregation of St. John the Baptist R.C. Church in Wading River came in with an offering of a bouquet of red roses and a prayer. It was her way of giving support to the local Ukrainian community.

Hedz and his congregation have been raising funds and material support for Ukrainian defense since the Russian invasion of the country in 2014 that resulted in the annexation of Crimea. Hedz expressed the belief that “Putin will not stop at Ukraine.”

With this greater invasion into the whole of Ukraine, Hedz said the defenders of Ukraine need warm winter clothing, personal hygiene medications such as pain relievers, cold and flu treatments, and first aid supplies for treating wounds.

Donations can be dropped off any time at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church located at 820 Pond View Road, Riverhead. If the sanctuary doors are locked, one may call the reverend at 631-727-2766.

Gov. Kathy Hochul. File photo by Julianne Mosher

After bipartisan backlash from Long Island officials, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has dropped her budget proposal that would require local governments to expand legalizing accessory apartments.

“I have heard real concerns about the proposed approach on accessory dwelling units,” Hochul said in a statement. “I understand that my colleagues in the state senate believe a different set of tools is needed, even if they agree with the goal of supporting the growth of this kind of housing.”

The plan stated that, to increase affordable housing across the state, dwellings would be allowed to convert garages, basements and backyard units as apartments. Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers from the town, county, state and federal levels all said this could hurt Long Island, and essentially eliminate single-family zoning.

“I am submitting a 30-day amendment to my budget legislation that removes requirements on localities in order to facilitate a conversation about how we build consensus around solutions,” she added.

The plan was introduced in January during the State of the State. Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) was one of the first to call the governor out on it, which then resulted in Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns to voice their concerns.

“One small victory, but many battles ahead,” Suozzi told TBR News Media in a statement. “We successfully stopped Governor Hochul’s radical proposal from being passed in the budget, but we’re not done yet. Now we must stop her and the state legislature from passing this misguided legislation during the Albany legislative session.”

Throughout the last month, these lawmakers argued that the plan could have potential impacts on Long Island’s quality of life, the environment and local school districts.

““I’m pleased that Governor Hochul pulled the Accessory Dwelling Unit legislation from the budget, but that isn’t enough,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst). “At this time, there are still discussions of tweaks to the law. Local officials on Long Island are adamantly opposed to any modifications that remove our ‘home rule.’ We know what is best for our community and we don’t need New York City and New York State dictating to us what our communities should look like. As we’ve seen with the pulling of the bill, combining our voices and speaking out ensure that we can be heard. I urge all residents to contact their State representatives and the governor’s office, to voice their opposition to any modification of ADUs here on Long Island.”

Several Suffolk County lawmakers spoke up against the ADU legislation Feb. 11 with the help of several state assembly members and senators.

“The removal of this proposal from the budget is great news for all of our communities and I am proud to have stood with my colleagues in town, county, state and federal officials from both sides of the aisle to fight to protect local control,” said state Senator Mario Mattera (R-St. James). “This shows that joining together and standing united can lead to positive change for our residents.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) held a press conference Feb. 3, as one of the first townships to take a stance on the issue.

“The call to remove this misguided proposal was finally heard by the governor and we will continue to maintain local zoning control,” he said in a recent statement. “Our right to home rule on issues like housing is what protects our communities from turning into the crowded neighborhoods that we see in cities, which is not what the residents of Brookhaven Town want.”

Hochul still has plans to combat the affordable housing crisis, and the emphasis on increasing accessory apartments and improving their safety will be targeted in New York City rather than the suburbs.

“Albany extremists will resurrect this terrible idea the moment bipartisan opposition gets distracted,” said Huntington Town Supervisor Ed Smyth (R). “Stay vigilant!”