By County Executive Ed Day
This week with the help of Rockland’s Department of Mental Health we announced a new initiative to fight back against the opioid epidemic that has swept across our county, state and nation.
Let me be clear, we in county government are doing everything we can think of to combat this crisis. Heroin and other drugs are stealing to many of our residents – particularly our young people.
In 2015, there were 31 drug-related deaths, according to the Rockland County Medical Examiner. Most of them – 25 – were opioid related. It’s getting worse, in 2016 there were 40 drug-related deaths. Almost all – 37 – were opioid related. 2017 had another 40 opioid related drug deaths. This problem is not just going to go away on its own.
That’s why it heartens me that so many community organizations joined us in this effort. With the help of Montefiore Nyack Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Helen Hayes Hospital, Crystal Run Healthcare, Refuah Health Center, Rockland Paramedic Services and the Rockland County Medical Society we have distributed two letters to those who prescribe medications within the county.
These letters ask our prescribers to do three simple things: educate themselves on the safe and effective treatment of pain, screen patients for opioid use disorder and connect them to treatment, and approach addiction as a chronic illness rather than a moral failing.
Their help is critical to deliver this message to all the prescribers in Rockland. The good news is that we already have one of the lowest rates of Opioid Analgesic Prescribing (349.3 prescriptions per 1,000 residents) and that our rate of opioid-related deaths is below the statewide average.
However, I know we can do better. Losing even one life to this epidemic is one life too many. If we can curb the number of opioid prescriptions we can limit even more people from suffering from this kind of addiction.
But this isn’t the only way we are fighting back. On Saturday, June 16th, we are holding a Narcan training in the County Legislative Chambers at 10:00 AM. Anyone over the age of 18 who attends the training will receive a FREE Narcan rescue kit.
We ask people to preregister. Go to our website rocklandgov.com. Go to the bottom on the homepage. You will see a box that says Narcan training. That will take you to the registration page.
Narcan can mean the difference between life and death for someone in the throes of a heroin or opioid overdose. Law enforcement administered Narcan 64 times in Rockland last year. That’s 64 lives saved because of the availability of this opioid blocker.
The more people who train in its use the more lives we can save. If you fear that someone you know may be in danger of overdosing please come to our upcoming training so you can be prepared to save their life.
Remember, addiction does not discriminate. It is ruthless in its march across our county, our state and our nation. Rockland County is fighting back before the opioid epidemic steals any more of our friends, family or neighbors.