Nassau County’s ongoing mission to address the opioid addiction crisis is one of the most important and most heart-wrenching issues I contend with as a mother and as the ranking member of the County Legislature’s Health & Social Services Committee. This merciless and unforgiving scourge has touched nearly all of our lives.
As the county sits on tens of millions of settlement dollars from the nation’s largest opioid drug manufacturers and distributors, Suffolk County has already announced plans for its share — a blueprint that was devised through the work of a transparent, bipartisan and collaborative advisory panel. To date, Nassau County, in contrast, has offered little more than conceptual plans for using our share.
It is time to follow Suffolk County’s lead, so that these funds can get into the hands of agencies and entities on the front lines of our response to the addiction crisis.
On July 26, Suffolk County announced that it would dedicate settlement funds received from opioid distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corporation to finance grants for drug treatment providers, community groups and county agencies for programs. These actions were based on guidance from the Suffolk County Addiction Prevention and Support Advisory Panel, a body consisting of legislators, public health experts, recovery advocates and community leaders that was convened by County Executive Steve Bellone. The advisory panel also published a report describing how future funds would be spent.
Meanwhile, in Nassau, we still lack a clear vision from County Executive Bruce Blakeman. According to annual reports from the county comptroller’s office and the independent Office of Legislative Budget Review, the county has received $55.9 million in settlement funds, $15 million of which must be directed toward opioid addiction recovery, prevention and education. None of these funds had been spent as of last month.
Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, of Glen Cove, who was elected to the Nassau County Legislature in 2011, represents the 11th Legislative District.