Huntington residents came together for a public forum at Town Hall to discuss solutions to drug addiction and recovery in Suffolk County.
The event featured statements from law enforcement, treatment, recovery, and health care professionals. The purpose of the event was to discuss the issues plaguing the town of Huntington, such as narcotics and opioids, as well as potential solutions to combat the issue.
“The reality is,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, the president and chief executive officer of Family & Children’s Association and member of the opioid task force, “we’ve got to change the way we think about [opioids and addiction]. Otherwise, we’re not going to get ahead of this.”
Throughout the nation, overdose deaths have seen a sharp increase in the last few years, with opioids being the main contributor. According to the CDC’s website, “opioids were involved in 42,249 overdose deaths in 2016 (66.4% of all drug overdose deaths).”
Overdose rates in Suffolk County have been the highest in New York State for a number of years. Between 2013 and 2015, 618 of those deaths were from Suffolk County, which was the highest total for any region in New York during those years, but now it appears those numbers are dropping.
“Crime, in general, has been coming down since 2015,” Chief William Ricca of the Northport Village Police Department said, “but overall narcotics crimes were still going up. Crime came down 6% in 2016, but narcotics offenses were still going up by 52%. The following year, we had a drastic turn around; crime overall continued to drop down 12% in 2017, and the drug offenses went down 44%. That trend has continued into 2018, and we’re projecting that, overall, we’re going to see numbers in the neighborhood of about 60% drop from 2017.”
As for drug prevention, speakers addressed the importance of active communities and educating the youth.
“A way to change norms, and to change the dynamics in our community,” Pamela Mizzi, director of prevention at Family Service League, said, “is to have a community coalition. Community coalitions are made up of all sectors of the community: youth, parents, schools, businesses, and faith-based individuals. Research shows, all over the Country, again and again, that communities that are active community coalitions for prevention do have lower prevalence rates [for drug use].”
Among those present to speak were young adults who’ve known first-hand what addiction is like. For them, one of the most glaring issues for young adults seeking recovery is a lack of support groups.
“When I first got sober in 2011, there weren’t many services for people 18 and under.” Northport resident Sarah Smith said. “In my experience, even now, if I were to attend a 12 step fellowship I wouldn’t have had any sober support.”
For Smith, a major key towards sobriety is to have a passion for something that makes one feel motivated. “We need to find something that motivates people to want to stay sober, to want to not use substances.” Smith said. “We need to inspire people to want to be better and get better.”