Nassau begins distributing millions to drug treatment programs as part of opioid lawsuit settlement


Nassau is distributing $2.4 million to drug treatment providers and community groups for programs designed to combat the opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives on Long Island since the late 1990s, a County Executive Bruce Blakeman said Thursday.

The county plans to spend $60 million — $15 million a year — on addiction prevention, education and treatment over the next four years beginning with the settlement of the landmark lawsuit it filed against the manufacturer and distributors of opioids, according to Blakeman, who was joined by public health officials. and county lawmakers at a press conference in Mineola.

Blakeman invited substance abuse treatment and prevention organizations to submit proposals for programs to address opioid abuse and fatal overdoses, which have exploded on Long Island in recent years due to isolation and the stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are opening up the process to any provider, whether it is for educational services, treatment services, counseling or prevention, and we are asking these groups to respond and tell us what you are doing, how many people you serve and what is your vision. is and how you’re going to spend the money,” Blakeman said. “We want to make sure that this money goes to treatment, prevention, education and counselling.”

Nassau has already received $60 million from the opioid lawsuit settlement, which officials intend to spend over the next four years. The county could ultimately receive $180 million from the settlement, Blakeman said.

Nassau University Medical Center will receive $2 million of the $2.4 million, Blakeman said. Matthew Bruderman, chairman of NUMC’s board of directors, said the money will be used to expand its drug treatment services.

“We have already planned for the expansion of this department prior to the announcement, so the impact of these resources will be felt by our community as quickly as possible,” Bruderman said. “It will save lives.”

Catholic Health’s Mercy Hospital will receive $180,000, which President Joe Manopella said will be used to expand drug rehabilitation, treatment and family counseling at its five Nassau County facilities.

“We are committed to using the funds to continue to fight the opioid epidemic through strong chemical dependency and substance use programs that include resources not only for the patient but also for the family,” said Manopella.

The Hispanic Counseling Center, Charles Evans Center at Glen Cove, South Shore Children’s Guidance Center, YES Community Counseling Center and the Mental Health Association of Nassau will each receive $60,000. The grants announced Thursday will be renewed annually for the next three years unless county officials determine the money was misused, Blakeman said.

In 2016, Suffolk became the first county in New York to take legal action against pharmaceutical companies for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic and was later joined by Nassau County and the Office of the New York Attorney General in action. The complaint said drug makers and distributors created a public nuisance by downplaying the risk of addiction and dishonestly and aggressively promoting the use of opioid painkillers.

Many of the original defendants – including well-known companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid – agreed to settlements before the trial goes to trial in June 2021 in Central Islip, while others reached agreements with the state and counties during the trial.

Jeffrey Reynolds, CEO and president of the Family & Children’s Association, which provides addiction treatment and recovery support, asked why Nassau officials hadn’t rolled out plans sooner to distribute opioid settlement funds . Speaking at an International Overdose Awareness Day event in Hauppauge on August 31, Reynolds said nearly 700 people – nearly two a day – have died in Nassau and Suffolk from a fatal overdose in 2021.

Blakeman said Nassau officials deliberately made plans for the settlement money because they want to make sure it’s spent efficiently.

“It’s really important that this money is used appropriately, and we’re going to audit the process and make sure of that,” Blakeman said.


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