Heroin Abuse Requires Community Response

With the tragic fatal heroin overdose of Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, the scourge of heroin addiction has claimed the life of another victim struggling with opioid addiction. For those living on Long Island, this was a terrible reminder of an 18 year old Massapequa woman who had her whole life ahead of her only to die in a garage at a summer party. The hidden toll of heroin addiction is less a topic of news reports when the victim is a not a celebrity. In fact, most opioid addicts are members of our communities.

Heroin use has exploded as a problem throughout Long Island with Newsday reporting startling statistics in a recent issue. Over the three year period from 2011 to 2013, heroin-related arrests have risen 31.8% in Suffolk County. Nassau County has seen a rise in heroin-related arrests over that same period but their 500 total arrests in 2013 represent just 36% of the Suffolk County total. An even more tragic statistic is that the 241 heroin-related deaths across both Nassau and Suffolk counties in the 2012-2013 period is the highest on record.

One bright spot is that over 500 overdose victims were successfully treated in Suffolk alone through the immediate administration of the lifesaving intranasal overdose antidote Narcan. While the administering of Narcan requires training and certification, there are people who are working to ensure that as many people as possible receive the training. Since early in 2013, Dr. Serrentino has worked with Fr. Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, James Murdocco, BSc and the Port Jefferson EMS to provide training for people so that they can recognize and help to provide immediate treatment to people suffering an opioid overdose.

Since these training classes have been offered, over 150 individuals have been trained and certified as Trained Overdose Responders. Along with being instructed in how to properly assemble and administer Narcan inhalers, trainees have also been taught life-saving rescue breathing techniques. In recognition of the great value these training sessions are to the community, The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department has prominently listed announcements for each of the training classes that have been given and continue to do so.