Nassau County Executive candidate Jack Martins announced his plan to strengthen the County’s response to the heroin crisis. Martins’ plan will expand local treatment options, create a 24-hour crisis center and promote the availability of comprehensive follow up services to at-risk individuals. It will continue the effort to make naloxone readily available so that we can prevent overdose deaths but will ensure that those who are saved are put on the path to recovery – are given counseling, access to care, and treatment options.
The cornerstone of Jack Martins’ plan to combat heroin and opioid abuse in Nassau County is to convert vacant facilities at Nassau University Medical Center into a full-service in-patient treatment center for patients combatting heroin and opioid addiction. The new in-patient treatment center will provide comprehensive medical detoxification and rehabilitation services, with all the additional benefits associated with being located at the Medical Center. Given the depth of the opioid problem on Long Island, the region does not currently have a sufficient number of beds. In fact, the region lost capacity with the closing of Long Beach Medical Center after Superstorm Sandy and, before that, with the closure of Topic House in Plainview.
Beyond expanding the availability of high-quality in-patient care for opioid addiction, the new treatment center at Nassau University Medical Center will serve as a 24-hour crisis treatment center to ensure that those in need of services will have access to clinical staff whenever they choose to seek help. Too often, the opportunity to overcome addiction is lost because critical services are only available during business hours or by appointment. By linking the new opioid treatment center and its staff with the NUMC Emergency Department, these services will be available following naloxone saves and other times when they are needed most.
Unfortunately, all too often when there is a naloxone save, we miss the opportunity to introduce counseling and treatment options as the hospital has no way of providing care to someone who is more interested in signing out than seeking help. As a prominent Long Island advocate has noted, “Reviving someone with naloxone is the least we can do, but should never be the best we can do.”
When a first responder responds to a home where someone has overdosed and saves the person using naloxone, the person is transported to the local hospital where they promptly sign themselves out without having received counseling or treatment options. Families and friends are left wondering why their loved one has been released without receiving the care and counseling they desperately need. First responders are forced to return to a home time and again to revive the same person for overdoses, too often more than once in the same night. We must be better than this – reviving someone with naloxone is the least we can do, but should never be the best we can do.
Martins’ plan will include a new County local law that will stop the revolving door of heroin/opioid overdose, naloxone save, release from hospital, back to overdose … requiring every hospital in Nassau County to provide counseling, care and treatment options to overdose victims during a post-overdose 72- hour observation period.
Combining new 24-hour emergency access to expanded treatment facilities with counseling and in-patient treatment options for overdose victims puts Nassau County at the forefront of the effort to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic that has devastated our communities. This is a fight worthy of Nassau County and must be had – it means not only saving lives, but goes further to provide resources necessary to break the vicious cycle of addiction.
In 2016, 564 people were saved from heroin or opioid overdose in Nassau County through the use of naloxone. Unfortunately, there are numerous instances where an individual has been saved multiple times. To help break this cycle, this follow-up program will be established through which clinically trained personnel will proactively communicate, with individuals who have overdosed, about available treatment and recovery services.
Heroin and opioid use has surpassed automobile accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In Nassau County, 367 people died of heroin and opioid use in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, alone, 564 people were saved in Nassau County through the use of the heroin overdose reversal drug naloxone, or Narcan. Demonstrating the continued growth of this epidemic in Nassau County, the Nassau County Police Department made 47% more opioid-related arrests in 2016 (611) than 2015 (417).
As a State Senator, in 2016, Jack Martins enacted new state laws expanding insurance coverage for addiction treatment, ending prior insurance authorization for in-patient treatment, limiting the availability of prescription opioids and making live-saving naloxone more readily available.