Fatal overdoses down in Wantagh, THC use up


Wantagh is the latest community targeted by Nassau County’s Operation Natalie drug abuse prevention and education program, which county officials say has already resulted in significantly decreased overdoses.

Police commissioner Patty Ryder said since 2017 there have been 4 fatal overdoses in Wantagh and 41 non fatal ODs. Records show that 3 of the 4 overdose deaths occurred in 2017 which means the number of fatal overdoses has gone down in Wantagh.

Ryder added that there were 58 arrests for “larcenies from autos” in the community since last year and he believes there’s a direct connection between those thefts and the users getting money to buy drugs.

As Nassau Police do in each community they highlight, they announced the arrests of 33 people in Wantagh, over the last five day,s all but one for drug-related crimes. Four of those were for felony crimes and two were for drug sales.

The newest revelation however is that most of the arrests are for possession of THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, Ryder said.

“Forty-percent of our high school kids are vaping,” said Ryder, adding that THC, when vaped, is non detectable and doesn’t have an odor. “It’s the new gateway drug to the opioid epidemic. And we can’t arrest our way our of this problem.”

“We are getting results,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, at the news conference held outside the Wantagh firehouse on Park Avenue. “Dealers are being arrested, people are getting help and we’ll keep coming back to every community.”

Ryder told those gathered at the September 13 news event that Operation Natalie was a partnership with multiple agencies including the District Attorney, diversion court, treatment providers and the fire services. And that the program was multi-pronged including education, enforcement, awareness, diversion and treatment.

He said the team that has been brining awareness presentations to a different community each month would be at Wantagh High School at 7pm on Wednesday, September 18 — which is Yom Kippur.

Overall this year, fatal overdoses were down 11 percent, Ryder said, and non-fatal overdoses were down 27 percent. Additionally, police officers and medics administered Narcan 750 times in 2017 and only 517 so far in the first 9 months of this year.

He reminded parents to dispose of any unwanted medication from their homes at any police precinct, 24/7; that police would anonymously and for free test any substances found in a loved one’s room or belongings; and that police would not arrest someone who calls for help for a person overdosing, even if drugs are present at the scene.

District Attorney Madeline Singas said her staff was available to bring their Not My Child drug abuse awareness and education presentation to schools or community groups upon request.