On Oct. 26, the same day President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, the West Hempstead Community Support Association hosted a substance-abuse forum at West Hempstead Middle School. Joined by members of the Nassau County Police Department, roughly 30 residents sat in on the discussion.
“This issue will never be solved unless you get parents, students, doctors and our law enforcement on the same page,” said Rosalie Norton, WHCSA’s president.
“This issue is quickly growing and spreading, just like weeds in your grass,” NCPD Community Affairs Detective Pamela Stark said. “It’s our responsibility to change that.”
Stark, who has worked in the NCPD’s Community Affairs Department since 2009, said that among major drugs — including heroin and cocaine — opioids saw the biggest increase in fatal drug overdoses in the United States in recent decades.
“This issue is everywhere,” said Sgt. Ed Grim of the 5th Precinct. “Don’t think that this problem only exists in West Hempstead. In some places, it’s more obvious because it takes place on the streets, but there are many instances where this occurs behind closed doors.”
While there were no fatal overdoses in West Hempstead this year, Grim said, it has become tougher to stop drug dealers. “Cars come up, they flash their lights, they talk for a few seconds and then they’re gone,” he said. “You’re not getting the old days, where someone stands by a pay phone on the corner. Now, with technology, it’s a lot more difficult to crackdown on what they’re doing.”
State assemblyman Ed Ra, a Republican from Franklin Square, explained that Assembly members understands the severity of the issue and have put together several task forces in recent years.
“We know this is an ongoing problem ,and that there’s always things that we need to do at the state level,” Ra said. “I think one of the biggest things for members of the Legislature is for us to continue getting educated on this issue.”
Grim added that this epidemic is eye-opening for many communities. “The sad part is, even after being on the brink of death, [drug addicts] will still continue to use the drug because the addiction is so strong.”
“Unfortunately,” Ra said, “so many of the stories we hear from people that ended up in a fatal overdose. It’s a situation where that person may have gone through treatment multiple times and ends up back in the same situation.”
In this year’s state budget, he said, about $23 million went to six recovery centers on Long Island.
“It’s really a place to go for people that are in recovery with addiction,” Ra said. “This illness is a lifelong struggle for people that are addicted to using drugs. They’re around counselors and they’re around other people that are facing the same struggles. Hopefully, it’s fostering a positive environment for them to move forward rather than falling back into a negative environment.”
Sid Krimsky, a local resident who attended, said he had hoped to learn more about the opioid epidemic and its effect on his community. “After listening to the presentation,” he said, “I learned an awful lot from being here. I just hope that everyone in our community becomes more aware of what’s going on.”