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East End Drug Crisis: Zeldin Speaks At East Hampton Roundtable

April 13, 2017
In The News

EAST HAMPTON, NY — Rep. Lee Zeldin is one of the many joining forces to fight the battle against escalating East End drug crisis.

Congressman Zeldin took part in a community roundtable Wednesday hosted by Vida Abundante New York congregation in East Hampton; the event was attended by several religious and community leaders, including East Hampton Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby.

At the roundtable, Zeldin discussed his work in Congress to combat heroin and opioid abuse, including his support of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, which, he said, will provide billions of dollars in federal funding for treatment, enforcement, and education, according to a release.

After an East Hampton teen overdosed recently at a house party, the community has vowed to come together to seek solutions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more deaths from drug overdoses in the United States in 2014 than during any previous year on record. "From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million persons in the United States have died from drug overdoses. In 2014, there were approximately one and a half times more drug overdose deaths in the United States than deaths from motor vehicle crashes," the CDC reported.

Prescription drug abuse, according to the CDC accounts for one death every 19 minutes in the United States.
In addition, the CDC said, opioids, especially prescription pain relievers and heroin, are the main drugs associated with overdose deaths. In 2014, opioids were involved in 28,647 deaths, or 61 percent of all drug overdose deaths; the rate of opioid overdoses has tripled since 2000, the CDC noted.

Two trends are pointed out by the CDC: A 15-year increase in overdose deaths involving prescription opioid pain relievers and a recent surge in illicit opioid overdose deaths, driven largely by heroin.

Natural and semisynthetic opioids, which include the most commonly prescribed opioid pain relievers, oxycodone and hydrocodone, continue to be involved in more overdose deaths than any other opioid type, the CDC said. In addition, "drug overdose deaths involving heroin continued to climb sharply, with heroin overdoses more than tripling in four years."

And the disease has hit close to home: Suffolk County was named the leader in New York State in heroin overdoses last year.

Between 2009 and 2013, 337 heroin-related deaths were reported in Suffolk County, the "New York State Opioid Poisoning, Overdose and Prevention," report prepared for New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature revealed.

According to the report, opioid-related emergency department visits increased 73 percent from 2010 to 2014. The number of heroin-related deaths increased in 2013 to 637, and opioid analgesics related deaths rose to 952, increases of 163 percent and 30 percent from 2009, respectively, the report states.

In 2013, an average of two New Yorkers a day died of heroin-related overdoses, the report said. More than four times as many men died of one of these overdoses compared to women; whites died of heroin-related overdoses at a rate of nearly twice that of blacks, and almost 1.35 times that of Hispanics.

"The upward trend in heroin-related overdose fatalities among younger New Yorkers is particularly alarming," the report states. "Half the people who died were under age 35."

Jeffrey Reynolds, president and chief executive officer of the Family and Children's Association in Mineola, said the crisis shows no signs of abating.

New synthetics such as carfentanil, may not have reached Long Island yet, but the drug, so strong it's used as elephant tranquilizer, is creeping insidiously across the country, claiming lives.

"Carfentanil has not yet appeared here; we'll know when it arrives because we will immediately see more fatalities. I say 'yet' because 15 years ago we warned about the burgeoning prescription pill crisis and it happened. Ten years ago we warned of the impending heroin crisis and it happened. Four years ago, we warned about the emergence of fentanyl after it appeared in several other regions; low and behold, that drug is now killing more Long Islanders than heroin," Reynolds said.

"Drugs travel very rapidly across the United States and change hands hundreds of times before they get to the end user. It seems like we are just chasing the drug du jour and not getting to the roots of substance use or taking enough steps to make treatment available. We are still swatting at the symptoms. We need good prevention that addresses mental health issues earlier on, that gives kids straight facts and that educates their parents."

To this day, Reynolds said, "There are barriers to treatment including insurance company discrimination and a lack of treatment options. There aren't nearly enough supports for people in early recovery, but then we blame them for a relapse rate that approaches 75 percent. We are watching the problem worsen and the death toll climb, but we haven't taken the bold or sustained action necessary to turn the tide. That's why, unless we do something differently, 2017 promises to be a whole lot worse."