Following the death of a Long Beach man last month from what police suspect was a drug overdose, the city will host a panel discussion next week in an effort to educate the community about drug abuse and prevention.
The event, which will take place Wednesday, March 12, at 7 p.m. at City Hall, will feature a panel of local leaders and drug-abuse specialists who will speak about abuse prevention and about resources for those with drug addictions. Representatives of Al-Anon, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous will be on hand to share information about their programs.
“It’s more about awareness than anything,” said Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney. “We’re looking to give factual information out about drug use, things people can do to get assistance if they do have an addiction problem and let the community know that we’re addressing a serious issue.”
On Feb. 16, two local men in their early 30s died within hours of each other, and though toxicology reports are pending, police said they believe one of the men died of a heroin overdose. The deaths came on the heels of a number of heroin-related fatalities in Nassau County — and the high-profile death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman — which prompted talk on social media that the incidents in Long Beach were part of an alarming trend.
Since the beginning of the year, Tangney said, there have been three fatal drug overdoses in Long Beach. The well-publicized increase in heroin use, he explained, is due to both crackdown on prescription pills and a loss of drug-recovery resources on the barrier island. Long Beach Reach is the only local resource left, Tangney said, after others, including the methadone clinic at Long Beach Medial Center, closed.
Tangney said that the increased efforts to limit the abuse of prescription pills have created a new problem with heroin. The drug is more affordable and accessible than pills, he said, and if you take away a person’s access to pills without curing the addiction, he or she is bound to start using heroin.