Officials: Heroin deaths down across Long Island
Heroin and painkiller-related deaths are down on Long Island, according to new numbers released by medical examiners of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Data shows that fatal heroin overdoses fell from 145 in 2013 to 137 in 2014.
Steven Chassman, of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, says the numbers are good news, but greater access to long term treatment is critical. He says Narcan - which reverses the effects of an opiate overdose - only offers a temporary reprieve from addiction.
"This is a physical intervention by keeping people alive and bringing them out of overdose, but without treatment for the psychological and social obsession and compulsion that makes for addiction, unfortunately there's a lot of repetition with overdose," said Chassman.
Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter says Narcan is an important tool, but it's only one weapon in the county's war against the heroin epidemic. He says the department funds an awareness campaign and has an extensive enforcement initiative.
Krumpter is also calling for a law to require those rescued by Narcan to stay in the hospital for 72 hours. He says patients are currently released in a few hours and some end up overdosing again within days. He says a 72-hour hold would give the hospital more time to refer patients to treatment programs to help them overcome their addiction.