Fight Opioid Addiction
One does not have to be a medical professional to understand that addiction to opioids can occur very quickly. For some that addiction can occur with just a very short term prescription. Once the legitimate route to prescription pain medication is cut off, the addiction can quickly lead to attempts to soothe the craving by obtaining illegal drugs. Street sources for these same opioid drugs become the choice for many, and when those drugs are unavailable, or too expensive, the choice becomes heroin or fentanyl.
Many of us do not picture our neighbors as being drug addicts. Opioid addiction has become widespread in our community affecting people of all socioeconomic classes – some of whom began taking prescribed opioids to treat pain and others who began by using recreational drugs. Aside from educating physicians and the public about treating pain with other than dangerous pain medication, we have to implement alternative methods of treatment for those who have become addicts. The good news is that the number of prescriptions for these drugs has been drastically reduced. The flip side of that news, is that we still have more to do.
At this very moment a large percentage of our jail population is suffering from opioid or heroin addiction. Why should this concern us? Because that person in jail could be someone close to us. And whether that person is our son, daughter, friend, acquaintance or stranger, they will be on our streets again after serving a sentence. We must decrease the likelihood that he or she will go back to the behavior that put them in jail in the first place and help them to live a productive life, while keeping our community safe. We have to consider using that jail time as treatment time. In all cases, it should involve mental health treatment while in jail and after release.
According to the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, “Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a whole-patient approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. Research shows that when treatment substance-use disorders, a combination of medication and behavioral therapies is most successful.” [sic] (https://www.oasas.ny.gov/AdMed/meds/meds.cfm)
There is evidence that administration and availability of Medication-Assisted Treatment is more effective in the treatment of withdrawal from opioid addiction than sudden withdrawal by an imposition of forced abstinence.
Fortunately, the Suffolk County Legislature has created the Suffolk County Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel, a permanent panel to explore solutions to the opioid crisis in our community. It is imperative that Suffolk County engages in preventative education, supports enhancement of law enforcement efforts and makes available assistance for treatment and rehabilitation.
Suffolk County must seek a significant portion of the federally funded NYS programs to address our local needs. In his 2019 State of the State Address, Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined his plans to increase availability of Medication Assisted Treatment in New York State in our state prisons. Suffolk County should now expand access to such treatment in the Suffolk County Jail.