The Long Island Network, which is made up of a dozen human service and behavioral health organizations, was awarded more than $5.7 million from a state grant to aid Long Islanders’ access to addiction prevention, treatment and recovery programs last week.
The funds, according to a news release, stem from the state’s federally backed Opioid Response Grant, which is administered by the state’s Office of Addiction Services and Supports.
The organizations that make up the network are the Bridge Back to Life Center Inc., CSEDNY, Central Nassau Guidance & Counseling Services, Family & Children’s Association, Family Service League Inc., Hispanic Counseling Center Inc., Mercy Hospital, Northwell Health – Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Outreach Development Corp., South Shore Child Guidance/EPIC Long Island and Sun River Health.
“At a time when overdose fatalities are again on the rise and alcohol use is skyrocketing, we are thrilled to be part of this network, laser-focused on boosting efforts Island-wide,” Family & Children’s Association President and CEO Jeffrey L. Reynolds said. “Our unified, coordinated regional approach will harness the use of technology, evidence-based practices, and people with lived experience to increase access to services and care, especially for underserved communities.”
Reynolds’ organization is one of Long Island’s largest health and human organizations with 340 staff members, 200 volunteers and more than 30 programs that help the underserved and the at-risk populations.
Despite decreases over the past few years, drug overdose deaths are nothing new for Nassau County. The county’s peak year for opioid-related deaths was 2016, with 195, according to state Health Department figures.
In 2018, the county announced the establishment of Operation Natalie, a countywide war against opioids named after a Massapequa teenager who became the face of the heroin epidemic nearly 10 years earlier. That year, opioid deaths decreased by 25 percent from the 2016 peak.
The initiative also led to the Nassau County Police Department seizing $1.2 million worth of heroin in connection with the largest heroin trafficking operation in the history of the county in December 2019.
A total of 88,000 individual doses of heroin, 1,024 grams of cocaine and $1,214,093 were seized during the four-month investigation, according to county officials.
Officials said that the two alleged ring leaders sold upwards of 26,000 individual doses of heroin to 74 customers per month, profiting roughly $30,000 a week, and totaling $230,000 in narcotic sales.
While strides were made, the coronavirus pandemic certainly took a toll on the mental health and well-being of Nassau County residents, according to Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
Ryder said in August that fatal overdoses in the county increased by 43 percent and nonfatal overdoses increased by 18 percent over the previous eight months compared with the same period in 2019.
The issue of mental health is one that the federal government needs to address, Reynolds said during a Blank Slate Media town hall event in March.
“One of the things we’ve come to understand is that, what we saw during [the pandemic], is a product of decades, in fact generations worth of neglect, chronic unemployment, and chronic illiteracy,” Reynolds said. “When you look at the contrasting communities, Hempstead and Garden City, for example, and ask why is Hempstead that has exponentially higher numbers of deaths than Garden City, well I know why. Those disparities didn’t appear overnight and they won’t disappear overnight.”