Poloncarz, Burstein in Suffolk County for Open Forum on Opioid Abuse Epidemic

Modified: January 17, 2017 4:16pm

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Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein today joined Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone along with officials from Suffolk and Nassau counties at Suffolk County Community College to discuss the findings of the final National Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Abuse report and to review policy and partnership solutions recommended by the Task Force. Poloncarz is the sole NYS local government representative on the National Task Force, and was accompanied last week by Burstein at a similar public forum held in Dutchess County and attended by officials from Ulster, Putnam, Rockland and Orange counties.

“The opioid abuse epidemic is claiming lives across the state and across the country, and I thank County Executive Bellone for hosting today’s meeting to discuss the seriousness of the situation here in downstate New York and to examine best practices in fighting it,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Dr. Burstein and I will continue to participate in these regional forums across the state, joining local leaders to discuss prevention and education strategies that can help to stem the tide of opioid abuse in local communities.”

Today’s Long Island event brought together dozens of legislators, law enforcement, mental health, health care, and addiction prevention officials from Nassau and Suffolk counties. Also joining Suffolk County Executive Bellone were Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James L. Tomarken, MD, MPH, and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini along with the Executive Director of the NYS Association of Counties (“NYSAC”), Stephen Acquario. When final toxicology reports are completed, officials anticipate that the opioid epidemic will have claimed nearly 500 lives on Long Island in 2016.

“The heroin and opioid abuse epidemic is impacting too many families in our communities, and it cannot and should not be ignored,” said County Executive Bellone. “This is an opportunity for local government officials, law enforcement, and health care specialists to come together to see what’s working and what needs to happen to address this issue now. With overdose rates continuing to rise, we must act now.”

“As county leaders, we are entrusted with preserving the health and safety of our communities. It is our duty to do whatever we can to help break the cycles of addiction, overdose, and death that have taken hold in so many corners of this state,” said Schoharie County Treasurer William E. Cherry, president of the New York State Association of Counties, which is coordinating the regional events across the state.

The National Task Force report, “A Prescription for Action: Local Leadership in Ending the Opioid Crisis”, contains recommendations for leaders at all governmental levels to collaborate in fighting opioid abuse. The best practices-based recommendations are aimed at city and county officials and provide templates for community leadership and regional cooperation, increasing public awareness and education, expanding treatment, and reassessing public safety and law enforcement approaches to the opioid crisis. Actions that can be completed at the state and federal levels are also outlined, along with numerous “Tools and Examples” of anti-opioid programs that have seen success across the country.

The full contents of the report are available at http://www.opioidaction.org/ .