By Eden Laikin and Christian Caldwell
In an effort to stem the flow and distribution of Heroin throughout New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will add 100 investigators to the State Police Narcotics Enforcement Team, launch an aggressive Heroin awareness and educational campaign at SUNY college campuses and ensure that all first responders have Narcan.
Gov. Cuomo made the announcement Wednesday in Nassau at SUNY Old Westbury campus because, he said, County Executive Ed Mangano is an “extraordinary leader and partner” in government. Also, Cuomo said, while the Opiate crisis is statewide, Nassau County is the “epicenter” or “ground zero” of the outbreak. This heroin resurgence has increased significantly throughout the last several years and overdose totals continue to rise, he said. And, one third of the Federal DEA heroin seizures are in New York.
County Executive Mangano said the Governor’s approach– attacking this problem from multiple angles- is crucial.
“This drug is eating its way through our community, destroying families and killing our loved ones, especially our young people,” Mangano said, adding that in Nassau County, his administration is fighting heroin with an aggressive education, awareness, and enforcement program – coupled with a successful Narcan training program for family and friends of substance abusers, which has saved many lives..
“Governor Cuomo’s announcement today will help strengthen our fight against the Heroin epidemic,” Mangano said.
The County Executive’s Narcan training seminars educate civilians with no prior medical experience to administer the overdose-reversing agent. Narcan can block the effects of an opioid and reverse an overdose if the victim is reached in time. Mangano said he agrees we need to equip all of first responders with Narcan and all other necessary medical treatments if all else fails.
And, Mangano added, “we need to educate our children on the life threatening dangers of all drugs, but especially heroin… raise awareness about the problem and inform them of what to do if they think their life or the life of a loved one is at risk.”
Mary Elizabeth Ostermann, a EEO Director for Nassau County, told those gathered Wednesday, about the death of her 21-year old daughter, Emily, of an Opiate overdose in December – after just three months of abusing drugs. She said the governor’s strategy “is a profound step in the right direction.”
A theme reiterated throughout Wednesday’s press conference was that in order to successfully combat heroin abuse, it will take a community working together.
“The state government can only be as good as the local government is, and in Nassau County we have an extraordinary partner,” Cuomo said.