I’ve grown weary of of summits, public hearings, workgroups and task forces aimed at addressing the heroin crisis. I’ve participated in lots of them and even chaired the Suffolk Heroin and Opiate Advisory Panel, where a focused and committed group convened by the Suffolk Legislature in 2010 came up with 48 strategic recommendations related to substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery. Some of the action steps have been taken, but a fair amount – including adequate funding for school-based prevention, access to treatment on demand and recovery support services have languished, helping to fuel the continued increase in overdose fatalities.
Yet, when asked recently whether I’d be interested in serving on the Governor’s new statewide heroin task force, I enthusiastically agreed.
First, because when called to serve in the midst of a crisis that’s tearing up communities, destroying families, and killing our young people, you don’t say “no.”
Second, because engaging really smart and committed key stakeholders, including state officials, law enforcement personnel, treatment professionals, impacted families and people in recovery from across the state strengthens and unifies our approach.
Third, because the Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul have specific timeframes in mind for action – by June before the Legislature recesses for the summer.
Fourth, because if we do this right, this could be the turning point in the crisis and 2017 could be the year when we see a drop in deaths, arrests and all the other consequences of untreated addiction.
The first in-person meeting is tomorrow in Albany and knowing just how much is at stake, I’ve never been more ready.