Suffolk County has, for the first time in years, experienced a significant decrease in the number of deaths due to opioid drug overdoses, County Executive Steve Bellone and Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart jointly announced last week.
After five straight years in which the number of overdose deaths rose, from 200 reported in 2013 all the way up to 410 in 2017, the number of such deaths reported in 2018 dropped almost 25 percent, to 308.
“I believe our enforcement and education efforts are saving lives. We will continue to be proactive in ridding our communities of opioids that are hurting the lives of the addicted and their families,” Hart said in a press release touting the decrease.
There was also an increase in the amount of drugs seized in 2018, as the Suffolk County Police Department worked in tandem with District Attorney Tim Sini’s office, with search warrants executed increasing 12 percent in 2018.
The post-overdose lifesaving treatment of naloxone, known by its brand names of Narcan and Evzio, is playing a major factor as well, according to both Bellone and Hart. The Suffolk County Department of Health Services has trained “more than 12,650 non-traditional responders in opioid recognition and reversal since 2013,” according to the county executive’s office. In addition, local hospitals “have collectively trained an additional 1570 individuals, bringing the cumulative total to over 14,000 individuals trained.”
According to East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo, the town is experiencing roughly the same number of overdoses, but Narcan, which the department’s members are trained to use, is driving the number of overdose deaths down.
Lt. Susan Ralph of the Southampton Town police said that, while over the past three years, the level of overdoses the department has seen remained level, “we have seen a steady decline in the number of fatalities.” She attributed this directly to the department’s use of Narcan.