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Suffolk County

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This week’s issues of Times Beacon Record Newspapers are set up a little differently.

Suffolk County has one of the highest rates of death from heroin and opioid overdoses in New York State, and we feel this growing drug abuse problem deserves a special journalistic spotlight. So we dedicated this issue to looking at the different angles of approaching the heroin and opioid problem. In this week’s paper, you will find facts: How much the substance abuse trend has grown throughout the past few years; how our local communities, governments, police departments and residents have adapted to fight back against this movement; and reflections from recovering addicts and parents who have lost children to drug overdoses.

Suffolk County leads New York State in deaths related to heroin and opioid overdoses. Graphic by TBR News Media
Suffolk County leads New York State in deaths related to heroin and opioid overdoses. Graphic by TBR News Media

Suffolk County has a drug problem. And while it may be broken news, this is not breaking news.

Heroin and prescription opioid-related overdoses and deaths are increasing yearly across the nation, state and county, according to all available data, but the overall conversation lacks focus, those close to the issue have said. One Long Island man whose line of work leaves him with little insulation from the problem said it is worse than most would imagine.

Dan Moloney, who along with his brother Peter owns six Long Island locations of Moloney Family Funeral Homes, said in an exclusive interview that he believes the problem facing Suffolk County deserves a harsher spotlight. Moloney, who has an unenviable front row seat to the horrors that come from the addictive and powerful substance, said the problem reached a tipping point for him in 2009.

After a funeral for a Rocky Point student who overdosed, the Moloneys decided to try to use their platform to deliver an important message. They had posters made up with the words “Some kids are dying for a high” in bold letters on top of an image of a flower arrangement with a card that read, “With Deepest Sympathy, The class of ’10.” Below the image, the funeral director’s message read in part: “The last thing we want to see is a death that could have been prevented. Help us make sure we don’t.”

The Moloneys tried to distribute the posters to school districts around the Island, though they couldn’t find any takers.

Maloney’s Funeral home still has stacks of this poster. Photo by Alex Petroski
Moloney’s Funeral home still has stacks of this poster. Photo by Alex Petroski

“Nobody wants to talk about it,” Dan Moloney said. “Nobody wants to hear from the funeral director.”

On the surface, in Suffolk County, it would appear heroin abuse is a daily conversation in one way or another, from politicians sponsoring initiatives to news outlets covering arrests and overdoses, to firsthand accounts from former addicts in various forms.

Moloney said he wouldn’t agree — not only is the problem receiving too little attention, he said, but also the wrong people are doing the talking.

“Are people sitting in the bleachers talking about the heroin problem?” he said. “But if their kid had some sort of disease, they’d be talking about it. They’d be doing fundraisers to help them find a cure.”

The two go hand-in-hand — heroin and opioids — or at least they should, Moloney said. Heroin is an illegal and highly addictive version of an opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, statistics reporting deaths related to one or the other are not always paired.

The CDC’s website said health care providers wrote nearly a quarter of a billion prescriptions for legal opioids in 2013. Supply and demand for prescription pain medication doesn’t always dry up at the same rate. When the prescribed pills are gone and the desire for more lingers, the cheaper, stronger drug becomes a logical alternative.

In 2013, New York State’s Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing — Prescription Monitoring Program, also known as I-STOP/PMP, went into effect. The system works as a registry for practitioners to consult and track dispensed prescription histories for patients. The program has restricted supply of opioids to addicts, though it has done nothing to curb their demand. No tracking system exists for the neighborhood heroin dealer.

Moloney said one of his business’s facilities held funerals for three heroin overdose victims in just one day earlier this year. The closest comparison he could come up with to a public health concern inflicting that much damage in one day is a car crash that kills a vehicle full of people. He said that in some years, only two to three motorcycle-related deaths occur over the course of entire summer, which the public tends to find alarming, but that pales in comparison to heroin- and opioid-related deaths.

The difficulties in securing relevant and timely statistics on overdose-related deaths in New York State has contributed to undermining the understanding of the severity of Suffolk County’s problem, according to Moloney.

“Are people sitting in the bleachers talking about the heroin problem? But if their kid had some sort of disease, they’d be talking about it. They’d be doing fundraisers to help them find a cure.”

— Dan Maloney

“New York State is terrible,” he said about the state’s demographic record-keeping, which is an insight few could offer outside of the funeral business. “Three years down the road — the latest data you have is from three years ago. With the technology we have today, there’s absolutely no reason for that. And I know from colleagues that I have in other states, when you can’t get the information about how many deaths occurred in a certain place for two or three years, or what they were — because all of that is tracked — I just think the data that’s out there is antiquated and the situation is worse than the data they’re using shows.”

Father Francis Pizzarelli, director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson, has been a regular contributor of insight and opinions regarding heroin and opioid addiction among young people in Suffolk County for about as long. He, like Moloney, said the problem is likely worse than anyone in the county realizes.

“The level of denial among parents continues to be deeply disturbing,” Pizzarelli wrote in a April 2016 column featured in this newspaper. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, “which are a vital lifeline and network in our community for those working on recovery and wellness, have to worry that drug dealers are now waiting outside these meetings to prey on men and women in early recovery.”

Pizzarelli said his tipping point, much like that of Moloney’s, came in 2009. So far, though, he added, it has not been enough.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said in May there were 103 fatal heroin overdoses in Suffolk County in 2015. New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D) released a report on June 9 saying there were more than 200 deaths in which heroin or opioids played a role in Suffolk County in 2014.

Regardless of how and when the deaths are identified with a specific cause or a contributing factor being opioids, one thing is clear to Moloney: the number is higher than we think.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, since the act of administering the medication Narcan to reverse an opioid overdose became commonplace in August 2012, more than 630 saves have been recorded through Sept. 22.

In addition to conflicting stats, Moloney said an issue that he encounters is the stigma parents feel about losing a child to an overdose and what it might suggest about their aptitude as a parent. Most of the time, parents decline to immediately identify a heroin or opioid overdose as their child’s cause of death, he said. In fact, Moloney estimated that nine out of 10 parents whose child died of an overdose don’t address the issue and the cause isn’t added to a death certificate until about three months later, when lab reports are complete.

“It almost creates an environment where there doesn’t have to be an acknowledgement —not publicly,” Moloney said. “Of course there’s a lot of shame.”

Down Payment Assistance Program to help 35 families

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Kara Hahn congratulate down payment recipients in Port Jefferson. Photo from Steve Bellone's office

By Donna Newman

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) recently announced the extension of the Suffolk County Down Payment Assistance Program, which assists first-time homebuyers with funds for a down payment to help make the “American Dream” of homeownership a reality.

Assistance will provide up to $10,000 in grant funding to eligible first-time homebuyers — helping an additional 35 Suffolk County families. Since the program’s inception, Suffolk County has helped more than 1,700 families with down payments on their first homes.

Applications are now being accepted through Nov. 30. Residents may download the application through the Community Development tab on the County’s website, www.suffolkcountyny.gov.

Applications will be accepted by mail only and may also be requested by telephone from the Community Development Office: 631-853–5705.

Bellone stressed that qualified Suffolk County residents must purchase a home within the consortium area. They will have 90 days from the date of issuance of the Purchase Certificate to submit a fully executed Contract of Sale to the Community Development Office — or 300 days to submit a fully executed contract of sale if the first-time homebuyer is purchasing a new construction home.

The consortium includes all of Suffolk County, excluding the Towns of Babylon and Islip.

Comprehensive details of the eligibility criteria, income guidelines and other elements of the program are available on the County website. Key eligibility elements include:

• An applicant must be a first-time homebuyer as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a household that has not owned a home during the three-year period immediately prior to the purchase of a residence with HOME funding.

• Prospective applicants must represent a low to moderate income household with an annual income not exceeding 80 percent of the area median income as determined by HUD, which includes an adjustment for family size; must have at least $3,000 banked at the time of application; have a documented minimum income of at least $30,000 and be able to obtain a mortgage from a qualified lender.

• The maximum appraised value of a single-family residence to be purchased within the Suffolk County Consortium HOME Selection Area cannot exceed $356,000 for existing housing or new construction. Single-family homes, condominiums and cooperative apartments (co-ops) are eligible.

Sisters Denise Pianforte and Heather Richards received a new roof on their Port Jefferson Station home in February, as part of Port Jefferson Station-based A-1 Roofing & Siding's partnership with the No Roof Left Behind project. Photo from A-1 Roofing & Siding

By Rebecca Anzel

Whenever Denise Pianforte saw one of her neighbors getting a new roof installed, she hoped to soon be able to afford one as well. The Port Jefferson Station home she lived in with her sister, Heather Richards, was 60 years old.

Pianforte saw a flier on her church’s bulletin board for a program that advertised a free roof for a Suffolk County family in need. “I always pray to God to help me find a way to get the money [for a new roof],” she wrote in the online nomination form. She added that even with her and her sister each working two jobs at over 50 hours a week, it looked like the day would never come. “Seems like my only hope would be to win the lottery.”

Sisters Denise Pianforte and Heather Richards received a new roof on their Port Jefferson Station home as part of Port Jefferson Station-based A-1 Roofing & Siding's partnership with the No Roof Left Behind project. Photo from A-1 Roofing & Siding
Sisters Denise Pianforte and Heather Richards received a new roof on their Port Jefferson Station home as part of Port Jefferson Station-based A-1 Roofing & Siding’s partnership with the No Roof Left Behind project. Photo from A-1 Roofing & Siding

She did not win the lottery, but she did win the new roof. A-1 Roofing & Siding, a family owned and operated contractor in Port Jefferson Station, installed it Feb. 6.

Maria Malizia and her three brothers, who took over running the business after their father retired, became involved in the national No Roof Left Behind program last year.

No Roof Left Behind provides contractors with the necessary tools and resources to construct a free roof for a local family in need. The program was founded in 2009 by Jay and Dena Elie, the owners of a Detroit roofing firm called Ridgecon Construction.

Malizia said that they were immediately interested in the opportunity to help deserving families in Suffolk County.

“We’ve been in the community for decades and were just happy that we were finally able to give back a little,” Malizia said. “When we heard about the program, we said to ourselves, how could we not do this.”

After helping Denise Pianforte and Heather Richards, Malizia said the immediate gratification let them know they needed to continue their involvement with No Roof Left Behind.

“They were really grateful, excited and relieved that they were safe under a new roof and didn’t have to worry about any leaks in the future,” Maria Malizia said.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said No Roof Left Behind is providing the community an important service.

“We are fortunate to live in an area such as Port Jefferson Station where residents and local businesses strongly believe in giving back to their community,” Cartright said. “I am sure the program will have a tremendously positive impact on the lives of the 2017 winners and I commend A1 Roofing for their sponsorship of the program.”

A-1 Roofing & Siding is a family owned and operated contractor in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from A-1 Roofing & Siding
A-1 Roofing & Siding is a family owned and operated contractor in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from A-1 Roofing & Siding

The importance of community support is not lost on the organization.

“This is a nice way for contractors to engage the community and let them know they’re one of the good guys,” said Dena Elie, who is a member development director for the program. “No Roof Left Behind helps the community to recognize you as a shareholder there, and someone who genuinely cares and wants to support you locally.”

More than 247 roofs have been installed by 60 contractors in more than 27 states and provinces since the program’s founding.

As a participating contractor, A-1 Roofing pays an annual subscription fee to join No Roof Left Behind. That gives it access to the outreach and promotional materials Elie created, and designates the firm as the sole participating contractor in Suffolk County. It is one of two in New York — the other, Marshall Exteriors, is located in Newark.

Nominations for this year’s recipient, are open until Oct. 31 for a local family deserving of a new roof. Malizia said community members are invited to submit photos and a brief paragraph to the local No Roof Left Behind website.

Then, the roofing contractor will narrow the list down to four finalists. Malizia said A-1 considers whose roof is least able to survive the winter months. When the finalists are revealed, residents can vote from Nov. 14 to Dec. 16 for the winner, who will be announced on Dec. 23.

A-1 Roofing & Siding is a family owned and operated contractor in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from A-1 Roofing & Siding
A-1 Roofing & Siding is a family owned and operated contractor in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from A-1 Roofing & Siding

Currently, there are four nominees — two from Sound Beach, one from Amityville and the other Nesconset.

The day the new roof is installed is usually a huge celebration, Elie said. She encourages contractors to bring members of the community to meet the winning family. A-1 has not yet set a date for the installation, but it will be using materials donated by General Aniline & Film (GAF) and delivered to the home by Allied Building Products, both national No Roof Left Behind sponsors.

“Roofing contractors are a group of big-hearted fellows,” Elie said. “They grow to care for the folks they’ve put roofs on for, and I think one of the most rewarding things to see is a sense of community develop.”

Malizia said her family is looking forward to helping more Suffolk County families.

“We all know how difficult it is to survive when you don’t have a safe roof — it’s a constant worry,” she said. “We’re going to keep participating as long as we’re able.”

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.”

Algae built up on a lake where birds and other marina life inhabit. File photo

By Rebecca Anzel

Long Island’s economic prosperity and quality of life are at risk from an unlikely source, but both the Suffolk County and Town of Brookhaven governments are taking steps to combat the issue.

Bodies of water in the county face nitrogen pollution, which leads to harmful algae blooms and a decrease in shellfish population, among other environmental defects. Critically, nitrogen seeps into the Island’s groundwater, which is the region’s only source of drinking water.

Fishing, tourism and boating are billion-dollar industries in Suffolk County — approximately 60 percent of the Island’s economy is reliant on clean water. County property values are also tied to water clarity, according to a Stony Brook University report.

Nitrogen enters ground and surface water from various sources of runoff, such as landscaping, agriculture and pet waste. But the largest contributor of nitrogen pollution is failing septic systems, which County Executive Steve Bellone (D) designated as “public water enemy No. 1.”

Elected officials and environmental advocates gathered at the home of Jim and Donna Minei, recipients of a Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems through the Suffolk County Septic Demonstration Pilot Program. Photo from Steve Bellone's office
Elected officials and environmental advocates gathered at the home of Jim and Donna Minei, recipients of a Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems through the Suffolk County Septic Demonstration Pilot Program. Photo from Steve Bellone’s office

Which is why Bellone signed into law last month a resolution that amended Suffolk County’s sanitary code to help protect the county’s aquifer and surface water by improving wastewater treatment technologies to combat nitrogen pollution as part of the county’s Reclaim Our Water initiative.

“It doesn’t help our tourism industry, our quality of life or our ecosystems,” county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said of issues with the Island’s water. “Tackling the nitrogen problem, while not a sexy issue, is a very important one.” Hahn is chairwoman of the county’s Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee.

Town and county officials are tackling the problem by utilizing what Hahn called a “multipronged approach.” Brookhaven is working to track any issues with outfalls, where drains and sewers empty into local waters, and Suffolk County is employing alternative septic systems.

Municipalities like Brookhaven are required by New York State to inspect each point where waste systems empty into a body of water and create a map of their location. It is part of a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit because, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, storm sewers collect pollutants like bacteria, motor oil, fertilizer, heavy metals and litter, and deposit them directly into bodies of water.

In addition to conducting the inspections of outfalls necessary to comply with the MS4 permit, the Town of Brookhaven conducts a DNA analysis of any outfall that has indications of impacting water quality. Since 2007, Brookhaven has spent more than $880,000 on this state requirement, Veronica King, the town’s stormwater manager, said.

“You want to put your resources where it makes the most sense,” she said. “Instead of dumping millions of dollars into structural retrofits that don’t address the true problem, the DNA analysis helps us to prioritize and make educated and cost-effective decisions.”

Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Brookhaven contracts with Cornell Cooperative Extension because it maintains a DNA “library” of Long Island wildlife, which it uses to identify the source of any pathogens in collected stormwater. For instance, if the DNA tests conclude they came from pets, Brookhaven might conduct an educational campaign to remind residents to clean up after their furry friends. If the pathogens come from a human source, there might be an issue with a septic system.

“This type of analysis could prove of great importance because any patterns identified as a result of this study can help determine what next steps can be taken to improve water quality where necessary,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said.

Brookhaven has applied for a state grant to help pay for these DNA tests and outfall inspections for the first time this year, because, King said, this is the first time New York State has offered a grant to cover the work.

The DNA tests are important, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said, because they help to identify ways to decrease the amount of nitrogen seeping into groundwater.

“The amount of nitrogen in the Magothy aquifer layer has increased over 200 percent in 13 years,” he said of one of the sub-layers that is most commonly tapped into in Suffolk, although not the deepest in the aquifer. “Cleaning up our waterways is not going to be done overnight — this is going to take a long time — but the waterways did not become polluted overnight.”

Suffolk County launched its Septic Demonstration Program to install cesspool alternative systems in 2014, called Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (known as I/A OWTS), on the property of participants. Manufacturers of the technology donated the systems and installed them at no cost to the homeowner.

The county’s goal in testing these alternative systems is to lower the levels of nitrogen seeping into groundwater. According to a June 2016 Stony Brook University report, “the approximately 360,000 septic tank/leaching systems and cesspools that serve 74 percent of homes across Suffolk County have caused the concentrations of nitrogen in groundwater to rise by 50 percent since 1985.”

More than 10,000 of the nitrogen-reducing systems are installed in New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — all areas with similar environmental concerns to Suffolk County — according to the county executive’s office. County employees met with officials from these states to help shape its program.

“Tackling the nitrogen problem, while not a sexy issue, is a very important one.”

—Kara Hahn

The I/A OWTS installations worked out so well during a demonstration program that on July 26, the county passed a resolution to allow the Department of Health Services to regulate their use.

Typical cesspools are estimated to cost between $5,000 and $7,000 to install. The low nitrogen systems cost between $12,000 and $20,000, Hahn said. She added that as more areas facing similar environmental concerns require lower nitrogen standards and, as the technology improves, the cost of cesspool alternatives will go down.

Until then, Hahn said county officials have been discussing the possibility of subsidizing the cost of installing the I/A OWTS. It might begin requiring new homes to install low-nitrogen systems instead of traditional cesspools. Or, upon an old system’s failure, it might require an I/A OWTS be installed.

“We hope to eventually be able to help in some way,” she said.

County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she hopes local businesses begin producing the alternative systems that the county determines best work for the area since it would “keep the economic dollar here” and provide jobs.

In January, Brookhaven will be the first town, Romaine said, that will begin mandating new constructions within 500 feet of any waterway to install an alternative wastewater treatment system.

“I think alternative systems work,” he said. “In many ways, even though we’re a local government, we are on the cutting edge of clean water technologies.”

Both the initiatives by Brookhaven and Suffolk County “go hand and glove,” George Hoffman, of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said. Many of Suffolk’s harbors and bays are struggling due to stormwater and nitrogen pollution, including Great South Bay, Lake Ronkonkoma, Northport Harbor, Forge River, Port Jefferson Harbor, Mount Sinai Harbor and Peconic River/Peconic Bay.

“Living on an island on top of our water supply and with thousands of homes along the shores of our harbors and bays, it never made sense to allow cesspools to proliferate,” he said.

The success of the initiatives, though, depends on residents.

“The public needs to be always recognizing that whatever we do on land here on Long Island and in Suffolk County affects not only the drinking water beneath us but the quality of our bays and waterways, streams and rivers all around us,” Hahn said. “It’s critically important that folks have that understanding. Everything we do on land affects our water here on the Island.”

Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Police arrested Patel Sanjaykumar for selling alcohol to a minor in Centereach on Aug. 17.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers received tips of alcohol being sold to minors at the Mobil gas station, located at 2033 Middle Country Road. Sixth Precinct Crime Control, working with an underage agent, conducted a check of the business in accordance with the New York State Liquor Authority. The employee, Sanjaykumar, sold an alcoholic beverage to the underage agent and was arrested.

Sanjaykumar, 28, of Babylon was charged with sale to a minor and issued a field appearance ticket for arraignment at a later date.

Two German shepherds are joining the force.

15-month-old Dallas V and 19-month-old Maverick, who were bred in Europe, have been training with the Suffolk County Police Department for one month and are close to graduation.

The two new patrol dogs are expected to complete training in November, which covers criminal apprehension, evidence recovery, obedience and tracking. These new additions to the team were announced recently at a press conference held at the Suffolk County Police Department Headquarters in Yaphank.

Steve Cuomo speaks about the achievements of Rolling Thunder, one of the marathon teams raising money for athletes with special needs. Photo by Colm Ashe

By Colm Ashe

Last year Suffolk County laced up their running shoes and got moving in support of the first ever Suffolk County Marathon: Freedom Fest, an event dedicated to raising money for local veteran services.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and sponsors, including Catholic Health Services, organized the first ever 26.2 mile race last year, which raised more than $160,000.

This year, they hope to continue their success at the second annual Freedom Fest on Oct. 30 — but their vision has expanded beyond just aiding local veterans.

On July 21, Bellone held a press conference to announce the marathon, half marathon and 5k, that will allow registrants to run for their own charitable causes.

Though Bellone’s goal when organizing the event was to raise funds for Suffolk County veterans — a community of over 90,000 — he said he believes there are other causes worthy of a champion. He is welcoming anyone with a cause to join the event and raise money for their philanthropic mission.

Bellone does this with the hope that people will “utilize the marathon in a way that will raise funds for other wonderful organizations” in addition to supporting our veterans. Many teams came to the press conference to speak about their cause.

Among those who came to represent their cause was Team Liberty, an organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness about organ donation. Christian Siems, a 22-year old team member from Greenlawn, could be seen sporting the silver medal he won this summer at the Transplant Games of America — just 14 months after he received his heart transplant. Margaret O’Reilly, another Team Liberty member, could be seen holding a picture of her son, Stephen Valsechi, who passed away but saved the lives of four others by donating his organs.

Siems’ mother, Michele Martines, addressed the state of organ donation in Suffolk County and said even though New York accounts for 10 percent of the national waiting list for organs, we rank among the lowest when it comes to registered organ donors. She strives to help NY “come out of last place and go to first place.”

Another organization with a team in this year’s marathon is Rolling Thunder, a nonprofit for athletes with special needs. Steve Cuomo spoke for the team and brought up one of their members, Tysheem Griffin, who will be participating in the paralympics in Brazil this year along with one other teammate, Michael Brannigan.

Patty’s Pacers, a team raising money for the Patricia Keane DeGeorge Memorial Scholarship, paid tribute to Patricia at the event by telling her story. They said she was an example of how to triumph in the face of adversity, continuing on with her nursing degree even after being diagnosed with leukemia. A fighter to the very end, she died soon after receiving the news that she had graduated nursing school. Her spirit lives on in Patty’s Pacers.

A team representing Mothers Against Drunk Driving also came to represent their cause. Richard Mallow, the NYS executive director for MADD, said his team is hoping to change Suffolk County from leading the state in drunk driving incidents.

The Airborne Tri Team joined the event to continue their efforts in serving mentally and physically disabled war veterans. Their team is made up of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

The teams at the event are not the only ones bringing their personal passions to the race. Thousands of people have signed up to run in this year’s race in October. From people aspiring to meet health goals to teams of veterans running in honor of their fellow troops and veterans, all have stories to tell.

Visit www.suffolkmarathon.com to represent a cause, create a team, help contribute to veteran services, or join the race.

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.