New Hotline Serves as a Lifeline to Residents
(Long Island, NY) Suffolk County officials and substance abuse providers jointly announce another initiative the County has undertaken to address the opioid epidemic plaguing the region and across the country.
“Like many places in this country, Suffolk County is facing an opioid epidemic of historic proportions,” stated County Executive Steve Bellone. “We need to tackle this epidemic on all fronts — including prevention, treatment and law enforcement. My administration has made it a priority to explore and launch new, evidence-based tools in combatting the heroin and opioid epidemic. The creation of a local 24/7 hotline is now another tool in our arsenal to assist those who are battling opioid and heroin addiction and their families.”
Working with Stony Brook University Medical Center through the NYS Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program (DSRIP) and with the County’s private and public community partners in the substance abuse field, county officials recognized an urgent need for the establishment of a 24-hour hotline where people can call to get screenings, referrals and follow up.
“The number of heroin deaths in Suffolk County has nearly tripled since 2010,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. “This alarming data demands our immediate attention. A centralized hotline for people in crisis is a critical step toward saving lives, but we must do more. My colleagues and I look forward to our continued work with both the County Executive and officials from Nassau County as together we fight to stem Long Island’s heroin epidemic.”
“Substance abuse is a pervasive issue which touches the lives of everyone in our communities, not just those who are addicted. This initiative will provide opportunity for addicts to reach out during their time off need and access treatment and support options easily. Often, there is a critical and brief period of time when a person sees clarity and makes the decision to seek help. This hotline can be fertile ground for change and recovery as it can quickly link residents to crucial healthcare services,” stated Legislator William R. Spencer, M.D.
The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) will operate the 24 hour hotline and will provide screenings, referrals and follow ups for those seeking assistance with substance abuse. Providing a single phone number to call for a myriad of resources and services is key to assisting those who are battling addiction and their families. Ensuring effective follow up is essential as there is a short window of time to engage a client and get them into appropriate care to address their substance abuse needs.
“LICADD and Suffolk County officials are hopeful that having access to qualified professionals to facilitate substance abuse treatment referrals 24 hours a day and 7 days a week will offer individuals and families the on demand support they need to access assistance and licensed treatment facilities,” stated Steve Chassman, Executive Director LICADD, LCSW, CASAC. “Expanding support and referral services is yet another dimension of healthcare needed to quell the current status of this devastating public health crisis. ”
“Every second counts to a mother whose son or daughter was found and saved from overdosing,” said Kara Hahn, the Legislature’s Majority Leader and author of several laws credited with preventing more than a thousand opiate overdoses in Suffolk County since the summer of 2012. “And every hour and every day that slips by trying to find quality, affordable, accessible treatment is critical. Mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, loved ones, and especially the addicts themselves are desperate for help. The opportunity for a breakthrough with an addict can be short lived as their willingness to seek treatment ebbs and flows. There is nothing more frustrating than having that willingness end before treatment is available. I’ve spoken to many desperate people searching for solutions, searching for a place to turn. Now we have that place to turn.”
The hotline will be live April 1, 2016. The Suffolk County Health Department will provide oversight and analyze data to monitor its effectiveness and identify trends and emerging issues in the community.