Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Glen Cove Democrat, on Monday introduced new legislation that she and her fellow Democrats hope will help to curb prescription opioid addiction and overdoses.
Under the “Pharmacy Opioid Notice Law,” all pharmacies in Nassau County would be required to post a prominent sign warning of the dangers of opioid addiction, or else face a fine.
The sign would read: “Medications containing opioids are addictive and subject to abuse. Use opioids only as directed by your physician. If you or someone you know has a problem with addiction, you can call 1-877-8-HOPENY.” It would be printed in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole, and would be provided by the county if requested by pharmacies.
Pharmacies that do not comply with the law would be fined $100 for their first offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses.
“This notice might seem like a small step, but it can have a big impact,” DeRiggi-Whitton said, at a news conference. “In just the few moments you stand waiting at the pharmacy counter to pick up a prescription for either yourself, you child or family member, this notice might give you pause and remind you that these prescription drugs need to be taken with care and monitored closely so as not to lead to the tragedy of addiction.”
Glen Cove resident RoseMarie Sherry, whose teenage son struggled with opioid addiction at one point, joined DeRiggi-Whitton in announcing the legislation.
“As a mom who was blindsided by the disease of addiction that attacked my family, I can tell you that what I have in common with my fellow Glen Cove moms and fellow Nassau families — is that we are not a very unique story,” she said. “We could be any family on Long Island. If we had received more warning of how addictive these medications are, maybe our family’s nightmare could have been prevented.”
In documents supporting the legislation, DeRiggi-Whitton noted that 493 opioid-related deaths have been confirmed so far in Nassau and Suffolk Counties in 2016, and 498 have been confirmed in Nassau alone since 2011.
The “public health crisis,” DeRiggi-Whitton said, will only be remedied with an “aggressive public health education campaign that educates, cautions and reminds both patients and parents at the very pharmacy counter where they may first encounter the drugs via prescription by their physician.”
Claudia Marra, a Glen Cove schoolteacher and mother who lost her husband in 2009 to an overdose of fentanyl that was prescribed to him, said on Wednesday that she supported the legislation.
“It’s a step in the right direction, for sure,” Marra said. “Finally legislators are realizing that this is going to get worse if we don’t try and change something, and change it fast.”
The legislation is currently under review.