Republican Nassau County executive candidate Jack Martins announced a plan on Tuesday to strengthen the response to the opioid crisis, calling on the county Legislature to introduce a law that would require hospitals to care for overdose victims for 72 hours.
“Long Island has been at the epicenter of the national heroin epidemic,” Martins said at a news conference in Williston Park. “To solve the crisis, we need innovative solutions and a commitment to help those struggling with addiction.”
Martins, standing with Republican Legislators Richard Nicolello, Laura Schaefer and Rose Walker, said 37 states have laws for post-overdose treatment and said the county Legislature has the power to introduce the law.
When asked if the law would be introduced, Nicolello, the deputy presiding officer of the Legislature, said legislators would need to review the proposal and see if the county had the authority.
Martins said his plan would also convert vacant facilities at Nassau University Medical Center into a full-service inpatient treatment center for people struggling with heroin and opioid addiction.
Martins, a former state senator, said he hopes insurance would cover expenses in his plan, but said he is advocating for the county to pick up the cost. He estimated the cost at just under $3 million a year.
“Heroin and opioid abuse has touched our families and all communities across Nassau County and this plan will redouble our effort to help those in need,” Martins said.
The new treatment center at Nassau University Medical Center will also serve as a 24-hour crisis treatment center with access to clinical staff whenever someone needs help, Martins said.
If the legislation to require hospitals to treat patients after overdoses passes, Martins said, doctors will have the chance to introduce counseling and treatment options.
“Too often people are more interested in signing out than seeking help,” Martins said. “We are not going to arrest or incarcerate our way out of this challenge.”
In 2016, 564 people were saved with the use of naloxone from heroin or opioid overdoses in Nassau County, Martins said.
“Last year, I enacted new state law expanding insurance coverage for addiction treatment, ending prior insurance authorization for inpatient treatment, limiting availability of prescription opioids and making life-saving naloxone more readily available,” Martins said.
The opioid crisis has heavily hit parts the country in the last few years, significantly affecting Long Island, which saw just under 500 opioid-related deaths in 2016.
In Nassau County, there were 190 deaths related to overdoses of opioids.
A new facility would complement the New Hope treatment facility in Freeport, the only medically monitored drug crisis center in Nassau County, which is funded by criminal asset forfeiture funding.
“Every single thing we can do in Nassau County to help those fighting addiction and their families is a step in the right direction,” said Walker, who represents the county’s 17th District.