We need to get serious about the opioid epidemic
In Islip, we are facing an immense crisis with children and adults alike in Islip dying from narcotics laced with fentanyl. Between 2019 and 2021, we saw 194 overdose deaths in Islip.
How is town hall fighting to reduce overdoses and save lives? It’s not.
The Islip Town Department of Health & Human Services was eradicated in 2013. Fast forward 10 years, and not only do we have no HHS department, but our town government is spending next to nothing on our health. In fact, as per the 2023 Town of Islip budget, we spent just 0.14% of our municipal budget on health, equating to roughly 83 cents per Islip resident.
We are not defeating the opioid epidemic nor the fentanyl crisis with 83 cents per person.
Our neighbors in Babylon and Brookhaven, by contrast, have well-funded HHS departments to meet this urgent need. Here in Islip, we pay the price for our inaction, and are home to three of the top six hamlets for opioid overdose deaths across all of Suffolk County — Brentwood at #1, Central Islip at #3, and Bay Shore at #6.
Our current leadership may fail to meet the challenge, but I won’t. Public health is my area of expertise. I grew up the son of an NYPD narcotics detective, going on to start and run companies in the healthcare technology sector, first at age 19, connecting HS & college students to professional mental healthcare resources. I graduated from Notre Dame with a Bachelors in Behavioral Neuroscience and completed my Masters thesis at Syracuse by managing opioid overdose policy for Montgomery County in Upstate NY. I’ve published research on federal health policy & worked for the NYC Department of Health managing youth suicide prevention data, and soon will complete an Executive Masters in Public Health at Yale.
My course correction for Islip on the opioid crisis is as follows:
• Restore the Islip Town Department of Health & Human Services
• Increase coordination with and support of non-profit and community organizations, such as Family Service League’s DASH Center in Hauppauge
• Offer social work services, mental health care and substance abuse treatment referrals through the restored HHS
• Dramatically expand Narcan/Naloxone training & distribution
• Construct a public, open source data dashboard to collect data on underlying drivers of addiction throughout our town
• Coordinate with Suffolk County PD and relevant state and federal agencies to cut off the flow of dangerous narcotics into our communities
• Opt-in to the sale of legal, highly regulated THC, unlocking millions in new tax revenues to be directed toward opioid overdose prevention, and help from state officials in cracking down on unlicensed shops selling unregulated narcotics (e.g., vape shops selling Delta-8 to minors)