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  • Writer's pictureJeffrey Reynolds

Record Number of Drug Overdoses on Long Island in 2016

Newsday’s Mark Morales is reporting this morning that Long Island has once again set a new record for annual overdoses. Medical Examiners in both Nassau and Suffolk have released the numbers for 2016 and they are stunning, but not surprising. Reported overdose deaths jumped to 493 in 2016 from 294 in 2015. Opioid overdoses between both counties in 2010 totaled 223. Almost half of the 493 fatalities in 2016 (233) were linked to Fentanyl, which has surpassed heroin-linked deaths.

Suffolk continued to outpace Nassau as it has since the start of the epidemic, accounting for 303 of opioid fatalities, while Nassau tallied 190. Fentanyl played a role in almost three times as many overdoses in Suffolk as in Nassau.

The numbers would be infinitely worse without the widespread distribution of naloxone, but we also know that the reported numbers are the tip of the iceberg – a snapshot – of the public health crisis ever to hit Long Island. Suffolk County’s Medical Examiner is still reviewing 16 cases from 2014, 22 cases from 2015 and 85 cases from 2016 that might be related to opioids. The reasons for the backlog are unclear, but coroners nationwide have been unable to keep-up with the soaring number of autopsies and toxicology tests related to the opioid crisis. The Connecticut medical examiner’s office, for example, has talked about renting a refrigerated truck to store extra bodies and in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, the medical examiner’s office sometimes has to put bodies on Army-style cots in its refrigerated storage area because it runs out of gurneys.

As bad as the numbers are, they don’t include those addicted Long Islanders who died while in treatment or at a sober house in Florida or some other jurisdiction. They don’t include those who died in car crashes, those who committed suicide or those who were victims of incidental violence. They also don’t include the huge number of lives that have been suspended or theoretically lost to active addiction and incarceration.

Each of those 493 deaths was preventable and the soaring death toll means that we aren’t doing enough or are doing the wrong things. The numbers are jarring, but they still don’t adequately capture the pain, suffering, loss and devastation that’s happening in our homes, schools, and communities.

We are better than this Long Island…

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