Three Nassau County Legislators sent a letter to Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello last month, asking why their nine-month-old proposal to include fentanyl test strips with county Narcan kits has been ignored.
It was June 21, 2022, when Democratic Legislators Debra Mulé, Arnold Drucker, and Delia DeRiggi-Whitton held a newsconference on the steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola.
They explained that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid far more powerful than morphine and other common opioids, has contributed to a rising tide of overdose deaths.
The legislators had just filed a legislative proposal to require the inclusion of low-cost fentanyl testing strips in every Narcan kit distributed by a county agency.
However, to date, the item has received no action from the Republican majority in the county legislature.
The legislators’ Feb. 15 letter of this year pointed out that, this past January, that County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder acknowledged the opioid epidemic in a “recent joint announcement warning the public of an ‘unusual increase in both fatal and non-fatal overdoses from Jan. 13 to 18 — a public health incident that is potentially attributable to counterfeit pills/opioids laced with fentanyl.”
Though the fentanyl strips could be critical to reversing an overdose, “The proposal was not even put on the calendar,” Mulé said in a phone interview, which means no opportunity was given for the legislature to vote on it.
The presiding officer decides which bills make it onto the calendar.
The Democrats’ letter listed the Republican objections: “that the strips are not effective enough; that distributing these tools will somehow expose the county to litigation; and that they might even promote illicit drug use.”
“Their objections don’t jive with facts,” said Mulé. “Fentanyl has made it into the county and we should do whatever we can do to protect our residents.”
Jeff Stone, president of Port Washington-based Project Help Long Island, attended the June 2022 press conference and endorsed the bill. “Fentanyl is a huge scourge on our society, plain and simple,” Stone said at that time.
In a recent phone interview, Stone reiterated support for the bill, which could play a part in Project Help’s efforts to “educate individuals and families on substance abuse and spread the word on mental health and awareness.”
The Beacon sent an email query to Mary Studdert, Director of Communication for the Nassau County Legislature, Majority, asking why Clerk Item 166-22 had not made it onto the legislative calendar for a vote.
Studdert’s only response was, “We carefully evaluate every piece of legislation that comes through the legislature, and some items require additional work before they are ready to be called. Others are not ripe for consideration. Each piece of legislation will receive appropriate consideration.”