Legislator Anker Announces Permanent Advisory Panel to Address the Opiate Epidemic in Suffolk County

Kelly Tenny

NEW YORK – On Tuesday, July 25th, 2017, Legislator Sarah Anker and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory were joined by their colleagues and drug awareness and substance abuse professionals to announce an initiative to address the opiate epidemic in Suffolk County. Legislator Anker has put forth legislation to form a permanent Heroin and Opiate Advisory Panel which will address the staggering number of opiate overdoses in Suffolk County,

The newly-formed panel, which will be established by Introductory Resolution 1664-2017, will include representatives from the Legislature, including Legislator Sarah Anker representing Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, Chair of the Public Safety Committee Legislator Kate Browning, Chair of the Education and Human Services Committee Legislator Monica Martinez, and Chair of the Health Committee Legislator William Spencer. The panel will also include representatives from the Suffolk County Police Department, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, and the Suffolk County Department of Health, as well as local rehabilitation providers, advocacy groups, hospitals, and the Suffolk County Superintendents’ Association.

The panel is being established with the goal of providing ongoing guidance and input to the county in combating the opiate epidemic through preventative education, enhancement of enforcement efforts, and aiding in the treatment and rehabilitation of those addicted to opiates and heroin. The ever-evolving nature of the opiate epidemic requires continuous commitment to identify new resources and additional funding sources, and provide for greater focus on educating the public about addiction.

“Suffolk County is struggling with an overwhelming opiate epidemic of unprecedented proportions,” stated Legislator Sarah Anker. “While the County has taken many steps to address this crisis in past years, a coordinated, continuous, and interdisciplinary approach is needed to fully address the epidemic and implement sustainable change. I look forward to working with the members of the advisory panel- who are Suffolk County’s most knowledgeable and creditable drug awareness professionals-regarding this critical issue.”

“It is vitally important that we come together as a community to combat drug addiction and the devastating impact that opioids have had on our children and our families,” said Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. “Right now we are losing this fight. Too many people are dying. We need a clear vision for how to move forward with a roadmap that brings all of our resources together to ensure a comprehensive plan is developed for managing this crisis. I commend Legislator Anker for this initiative.”

“Our Nation continues to face a serious opioid epidemic, and Suffolk County is not immune,” stated Legislator Kate Browning. “To eliminate this scourge from our communities it’s going to take all levels of government to attack the causes and treat those that are facing addiction. A permanent and lasting effort is critical so that the legislature is continually informed on policies and programs it can implement to address this ever changing battle against addiction. We have accomplished a lot, but more must be done, and I thank Legislator Anker and Presiding Officer Gregory for putting this much needed focus on the problem.”

“Across Suffolk County, families and communities have suffered from the battle against the opiate epidemic that we are in the midst of. It is incumbent upon us to work on multiple levels to educate, prevent, enforce and treat. I commend Legislator Anker for taking a multidisciplinary approach on this issue to strengthen our ongoing efforts to combat this scourge. I look forward to participating in the working group with other professionals to find and act on real solutions,” stated Legislator William R. Spencer, M.D.

“It is imperative we address the rising opioid epidemic in Suffolk County and evaluate the actions we may take to bring an end to this tragic affliction affecting our friends and family. This new advisory panel has the ability to answer difficult questions so we may discover the most effective way to combat all matters relating to opioid addiction. I am confident my colleagues and I will effectively use the resources provided through the advisory panel to determine a progressive and successful solution,” said Legislator Monica Martinez.

“Eradicating the scourge of opioid addiction in Suffolk County is one of the top priorities of the Suffolk County Police Department and we are launching new, innovative programs on both the law enforcement front and the intervention front to combat this issue,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy D. Sini said. “However, an epidemic of this magnitude requires permanent, collaborative solutions between law enforcement, government, treatment and rehabilitation providers, and our partners in the community. The Heroin and Opiate Advisory Panel provides a great opportunity for all of these stakeholders to share resources and work together towards our common goal of keeping our County safe. I thank Legislator Anker for her continued leadership on this issue and look forward to working with this task force to eliminate heroin and opioid use in our communities.”

“It is important for law enforcement, health officials and community partners to collaborate in order to determine best practices for dealing with this nationwide epidemic at the local level,” said Dr. James Tomarken, MD, Suffolk County Department of Health Services Commissioner.

The advisory panel will meet quarterly and will provide regular reports to the appropriate Suffolk County committees. To aid in their efforts, the panel will conduct a minimum of two formal public hearings annually to acquire necessary information and data to assist them in developing further recommendations.

Legislator Anker introduced IR 1664-2017 to establish the panel at the July 25th General Meeting and the Legislature will vote to approve the panel as early as September 6, 2017. For more information, please call Legislator Anker’s office at 631-854-1600.