Five Towns Drug and Alcohol Coalition works to save lives

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Two years after its founding, the Saving Lives Five Towns Drug and Alcohol Coalition is launching a new campaign to “Lock, Inventory, Dispose” of prescription medications in an effort to reduce access to drugs.

“Prescription data shows that if drug users are able to get used or leftover substances such as Vicodin or Valium, they either sell it or use it,” said Susan Blauner, an expert in substance abuse treatment who is the coalition’s director. “Because we’ve learned that if someone has an issue with substance abuse, they’re not going to stop.”

To keep people from having easier access to drugs, even if they are legal, the coalition launched a major mailing that is being sent next week to public and private organizations and religious institutions to increase awareness of the LID campaign, which encourages people to lock the medications they need, inventory what they have and dispose of those they don’t need or that have expired.

Blauner noted that people are known to attend open houses — when homes are for sale — in order to steal prescription drugs, with one person speaking to the real estate agent while another rifles through the medicine chest.
Older people could also use the inventory sheet to keep track of their prescription medications, coalition Supervisor Cathy Bryne said, given the increase in the misuse of medications among seniors.

Founded in 2019, the coalition operates under the auspices of the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC, the UJA Federation and the Mazer Family Fund. It was an awarded a five-year, $125,000 grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services last year. It is made up of community leaders from business, education, government, health care and law enforcement as well as parents and young people with knowledge of substance abuse.

Byrne, a gerontologist and a registered nurse, said she modeled the group after the coalition in her home community of Rockville Centre.

“In the Five Towns, I went to different rabbis and congregations and saw the need for this, because of substance abuse and teens in crisis,” Byrne explained. “I meet individually with a dozen rabbis and explained what we’re doing. We developed, recruited and reached out to establish important relationships.”

To accomplish the coalition’s mission of “bringing about community awareness to address youth mental health and addiction issues and to reduce youth drug and alcohol misuse through education, media advocacy, increased enforcement and changes in policies,” relationships were forged with the Five Towns Premier Nursing Home and Rehabilitation, the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association, the Hewlett-Lawrence Soccer Club, the Lawrence School District, the Village of Lawrence, Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital, the Nassau County Police Department and the Tempo Group. The coalition also works with the volunteer ambulance corps Hatzalah, the National Guard and Northwell Health.

David Friedman, president of the HWBA, said that bringing all the different community institutions, organizations and substance-abuse experts together in the coalition is terrific to help “mitigate the damage caused by alcohol and drugs,” along with the other “negative effects” of abuse. The LID program, Friedman said, is critical, because people need to know they can’t just toss drugs into the trash or leave them around where there is a risk that children could find them.

“The last thing you want is a child finding a bottle [of medication] and thinking it’s candy,” Friedman said, adding that the coalition also aims to alert law enforcement on where vaping products and tobacco are being sold to minors. “We want to strengthen the entire program and be able to move forward.”

Medical drop boxes have been placed at the CVS at 128 Washington Ave. in Cedarhurst, at the CVS at 44 North Central Ave. in Valley Stream, at the NCPD’s 4th Precinct, at 1699 Broadway in Hewlett, and at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream/Northwell Health, at 900 Franklin Ave. in Valley Stream.

On Oct. 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the coalition will hold a Take Back Drugs day at the Hatzalah station at 724 W. Broadway in Woodmere, with balloons for children and raffles.

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