Lafazan substance abuse legislation passed
When Joshua Lafazan ran for the 18th District seat in the Nassau County Legislature, one of his campaign promises hinged on passing significant substance abuse legislation. Those assurances became reality when two pieces of legislation the Woodbury representative sponsored were unanimously passed by the full legislature earlier this month. These bills, establishing a 24-hour hotline and a substance-abuse assistance smartphone app, were recently signed into law by County Executive Laura Curran. Lafazan was humble in expressing his gratitude to the bipartisan support he received.
“For months, my staff and I have been working diligently alongside County Executive Curran’s administration to devise new methods for reaching residents in crisis,” Lafazan said. “I am truly grateful for my colleagues’ unanimous support for creating new, life-saving tools that will connect people caught in the grip of the opioid crisis with the help they need.”
While Nassau County has four hotlines for residents seeking behavioral health assistance, it lacks a dedicated 24-hour hotline for individuals and families in substance abuse-related crisis. Legislator Lafazan’s law directs the county to launch such a service, which will be staffed by certified substance abuse counselors and will be equipped to receive web- and text-message inquiries. An RFP (request for proposals) will be issued by Aug. 31, and the hotline will be operational within 60 days of the date the RFP is awarded to a contractor.
The legislation directs Nassau County to establish a 24-hour substance abuse hotline through “Timothy’s Law” and create a substance-abuse assistance smartphone app. Both bills that were passed are designed to provide resources for people who are struggling with addiction, and their families, with the former named “Timothy’s Law,” in honor of Timothy Kroll, whose mother Terry has been a tireless recovery advocate since her son passed away in 2009 at age 23 after a three-year battle with addiction to painkillers and heroin.
The county will also create and publish a smartphone app containing: a comprehensive directory of substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services; a ZIP code-searchable guide for treatment centers; a Narcan training calendar; support hotline telephone numbers; and links to county, state and federal resources. The app shall be available for download and fully operational no later than 60 days after the effective date of the resolution. For Lafazan, the key to all of this is accessibility for a younger generation more wedded to their smartphones versus calling someone or even going on Facebook.
“This [app] bill also serves as a crucial tool in our fight against addiction. Statistics show that people are forming addictive habits at younger and younger ages and that social media platforms like Facebook are no longer being utilized by the next generation,” Lafazan explained. “We have to reach young people where they are and we know for sure that they are on their smartphones.”
Both laws will be seeded by police asset forfeiture funds with no taxpayer dollars being used. For Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, it’s all part of a multi-pronged approach towards battling this drug epidemic that includes enforcement of existing laws, awareness and education.
“The police department is going to continue the five-pronged approach that we’ve been going after so far. We’ve seen a 30 percent reduction in non-fatal heroin overdoses and an 11 percent drop in fatal heroin deaths,” Ryder said. “We’re going to use drug money that’s seized from the drug dealers and now put back into these two programs that Josh has been talking about—both for the hotline and to help create the app.”