Suffolk unanimously approves permanent heroin epidemic panel

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RIVERHEAD -

The Suffolk County Legislature voted unanimously to approve a permanent Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel with sweeping power to investigate and call for change. 

The newly approved task force will comprise of 23 members – including law enforcement – and will be chaired by Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai). 

"Now we have everyone, we have education and law enforcement and the court system, and then rehabilitation, so we're going into every aspect of this epidemic," says Anker. 

The vote came after an emotional plea from Claudia Friszell, of Ridge, who lost her son Mark to heroin addiction 17 years ago. He was just graduating high school at the time of his death. 

"Now is the time to act," she told the Legislature. 

One of the panel's new members is LICADD addiction expert Steve Chassman, who says, "LICADD is optimistic of its participation in this task force and will work with partners towards real solutions in Suffolk County." 

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory is asking the panel to get to work immediately.  

"We think it's a comprehensive approach. We think it's going to be effective, but again it's just one tool in the arsenal to fight this battle," says Gregory. 

The panel will begin its work in the first week of October.

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