Expert: 'Perfect storm' of pandemic, recession has caused rise in overdoses across Long Island
There has been a spike in fatal overdoses during the coronavirus pandemic, and experts warn the numbers could trend upward over the holiday weekend.
Drug treatment expert Dr. Jeff Reynolds calls it the perfect storm -- COVID-19, an economic recession and the shutdown.
"We have a drug supply which has been disrupted in a pretty big way where people are now taking chances with new dealers, and bigger amounts of heroin contaminated with fentanyl," says Reynolds.
According to Nassau police, fatal drug overdoses increased 43% this year, while non-fatal overdoses are up 18%.
Suffolk police say fatal overdoses are up nearly 29%, while non-fatal overdoses have risen 11%.
"We lost focus during the pandemic because of the many issues we had to address," said Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
But police in both counties say the tide is turning. They've recently conducted a number of drug busts and arrests. And they are vowing to continue that to stop the spike in overdoses.
"Making sure we're doing those large-scale operations, but still doing small-scale operations, search warrants ... and our outreach efforts, making sure we're continuing to do outreach," says Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart.
But Reynolds, who is with the Family and Children's Association, warns it won't be an easy road ahead. His agency, which runs two treatment and recovery centers, has already been told their state funding will be cut by 20% for the remainder of the year.
"This is as important as anything else, and watching people die left and right to overdoses, to suicides, while funding is being cut is a crazy approach to public health. We have to have the ability to focus on two things at the same time," says Reynolds.