“Yes, it’s happening here too,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran began, just moments after referring to Levittown as “the quintessential suburb.” “This epidemic knows no boundaries.”
Curran’s remarks were in reference to the opioid crisis that’s plagued several communities on Long Island, and with Levittown’s standing as a drug hotspot well-documented, the county executive joined Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas at the Levittown Fire Department for a press conference last week to discuss the county’s ongoing efforts to prevent drug use at the local level.
“It’s up to us to work together to fight back, through relentless enforcement and also through compassion and care, including going back and interviewing families that have been infected, arrestees and their families….to see how they are doing and see how we can help,” Curran said, further noting that the efforts in Levittown are similar to what the county has been attempting in several other towns. “That’s what we are doing community by community.”
Shedding further light on the matter, Ryder identified Levittown as the third “hot” location they’d visited in Nassau County, after Massapequa and East Meadow. He also outlined the county’s five-pronged process—education, awareness, enforcement, diversion and treatment—geared towards decreasing the number of overdoses in the community. According to Ryder, there have been 54 drug overdoses in Levittown since 2017, eight of which were fatal.
“We’re continuing to go in neighborhood by neighborhood, bring out the enforcement, push these kids into, hopefully, diversion; the drug dealers go to jail,” Ryder elaborated.
“The reality is startling,” added Singas. “People are dying every single day, in communities like this one, all across our county and all across our state, really all across the nation. In fact, American life expectancy has decreased for the second year in a row, and they attribute that directly to overdose deaths. So this is a problem that’s affecting all of us and we have to do more.”
Ryder expressed hope that Levittown residents would turn up to the next meeting at the Levittown Firehouse on Thursday, April 5, at 7 p.m., explaining that local firehouses are chosen as meeting sites due to the fact that the fire departments have become critical allies in the movement to prevent overdoses, as they help identify overdoses when they respond to such calls.
“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from the community. They’ve been using our social media sites to give us tips and information,” Ryder said. “But we have to realize that this isn’t going away any time soon. We’ve got our foot on the gas and we’re not taking it off. We’ll be into another community in two weeks. Hopefully we can make a difference—we’re starting already to see a reduction in our overdoses countywide. We need Levittown to come out and make a difference next Thursday night, when we speak to them.”
In addition, Singas commended Ryder and Curran for the county’s opioid map, which she deemed “crucial for us to have the information we need so that we know where to pour our resources into, whether that’s more law enforcement, whether that’s arresting more drug dealers or whether it’s getting people the treatment that they need. Information is key; information is power.” She went on to emphasize the importance of providing up-to-date and effective treatment options for victims of overdoses, and deemed the education of children, teachers and school nurses to be a top priority for the county.
“From the district attorney’s perspective, we’re doing everything we can so that we make our enforcements strong. If you’re a drug dealer in this county, you’d better watch out, because we’re coming for you,” Singas said. “At the same time, we understand the pain of addiction. We understand the loss that these families are feeling and we’re also there for [them]… [We need] to take away the stigma of addiction so that people can come forward and get the help that they need for their loved ones. So we will be out here and we will continue being out here until we can turn the corner.”