News Flash

Legislative District 05

Posted on: February 26, 2024

Blakeman Administration Has Spent Less Than $202,000 of $92.5 Million in Opioid Settlement Funds

Minority Caucus Reveals Blakeman Administration Has Spent Less Than $202,000 of $92.5 Million in Opioid Settlement Funds, Demands Immediate Deployment of Life-Saving Resources

The caucus later filed the “Families Against Fentanyl Act” alongside Corinne Kaufman, whose granddaughter Paige Gibbons lost her life to fentanyl

(MINEOLA, N.Y.) - Flanked by community leaders, recovery advocates, and family members of fentanyl overdose victims at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building on Monday, Feb. 26, Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D – Glen Cove) and members of the Legislative Minority Caucus revealed that the administration of Nassau County Executive Bruce A. Blakeman has spent less than $202,000 of more than $92.5 million that the County has received to date in its opioid settlement funds.

The shocking discovery is prompting renewed demands from Minority Leader DeRiggi-Whitton and the Minority Caucus for the Blakeman administration to make the expedited delivery of resources that have been promised to agencies on the front lines of treatment, recovery, and prevention resources his administration’s immediate top priority.

As of Thursday, Feb. 22, Nassau County has received a total of $92,522,907 in proceeds from settlements with the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of addictive opioid drugs. While $6,761,703 has been encumbered, only $201,833 has been spent to date, recent internal reports revealed. Nassau County continues to deliver opioid funds on a reimbursement basis, which contrasts starkly with Suffolk County, where a grant model has operated much more smoothly.

“No community has been spared from the scourge of the opioid crisis, and the $92.5 million that Nassau County has received could make a tremendous impact upon the lives of those who are in the grips of addiction,” Minority Leader DeRiggi-Whitton said. “Considering the wave of devastation that we have experienced and the promises that have been made, it is infuriating to know that, two years later, just a sliver of these funds have actually been spent on life-saving initiatives. Where is the urgency as opioids continue to devastate our families? It’s time to make good on our promises, cut through the red tape, and get these resources where they belong – saving lives on the front lines of our response to this crisis.”

“Addiction spares no one and exempts no family or community. Lives are at stake here, and people are dying – and that makes the lack of urgency in getting this money out absolutely inexcusable,” Nassau County Legislature Deputy Minority Leader Arnold W. Drucker (D – Plainview) said. “This is not a plea just from our caucus– it is a plea from Nassau residents and their families who suffered and are suffering unthinkable losses. This scourge is growing daily, and the administration’s actions to date do not demonstrate an adequate recognition of that fact.”

“There’s no reason why we have not implemented a plan for these funds. In 2019, [Nassau County Police Commissioner] Patrick Ryder along with myself and others joined together to put together a plan that could be implemented to reduce the use of opioids, to prevent and to treat. Instead of using this as a roadmap for using the money expeditiously and effectively, the administration is sitting on the money,” Alternate Deputy Minority Leader Siela A. Bynoe (D – Westbury) said. “Today, we say, ‘enough is enough.’ Get the money where it is needed and please move forward with the fentanyl strip law and all of the initiatives encapsulated outlined in this report.”

“Nassau is currently facing an epidemic,” Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages (D – Valley Stream) said. “The administration is sitting on a lot of money and they’re not doing anything with it. With this crisis at hand, we have to do everything we can – especially since we have a plan, which Legislator Bynoe showed us. We’re asking the County Executive and our colleagues to do the right thing for Nassau families.”

“The people of Nassau County are suffering amidst the opioid crisis, and we have an obligation to use these opioid funds expeditiously and as intended. Moreover, we must explore every avenue for saving lives," Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé (D - Freeport) said. “The Minority's legislative proposal to include fentanyl testing strips in Narcan kits - which should have been considered and voted on when we first proposed it two years ago - is a proven, low-cost approach that will add another tool to our comprehensive strategy for preventing overdoses and guiding people struggling with addiction to treatment and recovery.”

“As a former narcotics trial prosecutor who now works as a criminal defense attorney on a daily basis, I’ve seen firsthand how the criminal justice system is affected by the opioid crisis. Time and time again, people through to the courthouses and are not given the services and treatment they need,” Nassau County Legislator Seth I. Koslow (D – Merrick) said. “As a result, they come back – over and over again. By not spending the opioid funding that we have, we’re perpetuating a criminal justice issue that is not only costing people their freedoms, it’s costing the County and taxpayers more and more money each time they are re-arrested. We can break that cycle by using the money in the opioid fund to provide services and treatment to the people who are in need.”

“This is an opportunity to address the crisis that transcends socioeconomics and districts. I can speak directly to this issue myself – I was a pall bearer for a resident in my district who died of an overdose,” Nassau County Legislator Scott M. Davis (D – Rockville Centre) said. “Each one of us can speak to that in our own way – many of you know people who suffer in this way. Given the amount of money we have and the level of the crisis and the resources that are readily available, it’s inexcusable that we haven’t already acted.”

Immediately following Monday’s press conference at the Legislature, Minority Leader DeRiggi-Whitton and Minority Caucus members filed the “Families Against Fentanyl Act,” a resolution to require inclusion of fentanyl-detecting test strips in Narcan kits distributed by Nassau County agencies. The Legislators were accompanied by Corinne Kaufman, whose granddaughter Paige Gibbons died on Nov. 20, 2022 from accidental fentanyl poisoning. Her family’s harrowing story was recently featured in a New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) public service announcement that aired during the Super Bowl.

Fentanyl testing strips are a low-cost tool for of potentially identifying tainted drugs and preventing accidental overdoses caused by the synthetic opioid, which officials have determined is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Individuals dissolve substances they wish to test in water and dip a strip into the solution. The strips require only minimal amounts of drug residue to work properly, and results are generally available within five minutes. Findings from the 2018 FORECAST study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health determined the inexpensive strips are simple to use and have a high level of accuracy.

“Today marks 15 months since the purposeful fentanyl poisoning of my granddaughter, Paige Grace Gibbons. At 19 years of age, she had a brilliant future ahead of her,” Mrs. Kaufman said. “Fentanyl is ravaging our young people. I have spoken about this topic for over a year. The strips costs about a dollar. It’s important to have them in every Narcan kit and make them available to all. It might have saved Paige’s life. That is why it is an urgent matter to raise fentanyl and opioid awareness every day by directing the opioid settlement funds in Nassau County to save lives. County Executive Blakeman – please have these funds working for our county and against our enemies.”

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