The Perfect Storm

On June 7, 2016, Wellcore presented “The Perfect Storm,” an informational program about the prescription drug and heroin epidemic, in partnership with Clarkstown PTA, Clarkstown Teacher’s Association, and the Clarkstown Police Department. The program, held at the Paramount Country Club in New City, featured a panel that included District Attorney Tom Zugibe, Clarkstown Chief of Police Michael Sullivan, Student Assistance Counselor and LCSW Susan Solar, recovering addict “Steve,” and mother of a heroin addict “Carole.” Also on hand was a wide array of community resources including representatives from CANDLE, Clarkstown Community Task Force/Clarkstown Coalition for Youth, Clarkstown Student Assistance Counselors and Psychologists,  Elements Behavioral Health, Good Samaritan Inpatient Chemical Dependency, Lexington Center, MHA Rockland, NAMI Rockland, Narcotics Anonymous, New Fronteras, Nyack Hospital Recovery Services, Open Arms, RCADD, Rockland Behavioral Health Response Team, Rockland County Department of Mental Health, RUDrugAware (RUDA), and Turning Point West Nyack. Over 400 community members attended the event and had the opportunity to participate in the question and answer session with panel members and visit the resource tables.

“The Perfect Storm” is an event designed to raise awareness and educate the public about the growing problem of heroin and prescription drugs. In September 2014, when District Attorney Zugibe announced the county’s community action plan to help battle the region’s burgeoning heroin and prescription drug epidemic, he said, “In Rockland County, residents are more likely to die from a drug overdose than a traffic crash, statistically speaking. This must change.” County Executive Ed Day agreed, saying, “We can’t put our heads in the sand. The Heroin scourge is impacting ALL of Rockland County. It’s happening to wealthy families, to poor families. It doesn’t know any boundaries.” At that time, heroin and prescription drug abuse had claimed 16 lives since January, 2014 in Rockland County. By the end of the year, that number was 24. And the swift and deadly rise in heroin addiction and overdose deaths is not unique to our communities. In our area, 170 people have died in the Lower Hudson Valley from pain-pill abuse since 2010 and heroin alone has been tied to at least 230 deaths in the Lower Hudson Valley from 2010-15 (source: Lohud). Even though the heroin overdose antidote, naloxone, has saved dozens of lives, overdose deaths in New York State have increased nearly 500 percent since 2007.

HomeTown Media Group reports that “Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties have seen an increase in people seeking treatment for heroin addiction and other opiate-based, prescription drug addiction in recent years. According to the state health department, Rockland County saw its admissions almost double, from 437 in 2004 to 865 in 2013.”

Christopher Goldrick of the Rockland Narcotics Task Force explained to Lohud that young people become “hooked on prescription drugs but when the prescription runs out, they switch to $5 and $10 bags of heroin….We’ve been seeing this for years.”

Officials and experts alike know that the problem is not going to be solved by law enforcement alone. Education is a critical component to end this scourge.