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Nassau County Declares War on Heroin

At Least Four Die a Month to Use, Officials Say

The last words from a 20-year-old resident came from a text message sent to his dealer. It read, “i’m diggin’ this —— my dude, best I had in a while. 4 real. Save my number, peace.” That was sent before he was found by his mother dead in the bathtub.

“That is how his life ended and that must stop,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who along with Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, believe that heroin use has become a very serious problem in the county. The county executive and police commissioner declared war on the problem, which they said costs the lives of at least four residents a month due to addiction, on average.

Mangano and Mulvey announced a three-part initiative to combat heroin use involving enforcement, awareness and education. “We are stepping up our enforcement efforts, we have increased the ranks of our detective unit. We have over 30 law enforcement personnel now dedicated to eradicate our county from heroin sales. They’re going to focus on those who are leaving Nassau County, purchasing heroin and bringing it back into our county,” said Mangano.

The law enforcement initiative, called Operation HALT (Heroin Abuse Location and Targeting), will consist of 30 members of the Nassau Police Department, with the help of other law enforcement agencies and department, to stop the flow of heroin into the county. “The Nassau County Police Department has come across more of a casual distribution network, which is heroin users who travel out of the county, purchasing heroin for personal use to distribute to friends who are also heroin users,” Mulvey said.

According to Mangano, the heroin problem is a growing one in Nassau County. The county executive pointed out that in 2008, there were 211 heroin-related arrests in the county. The number jumped to 386 in 2009.

The other components to the attack against the drug will be education and awareness. Heroin use no longer applies only to stereotypes the suburban communities have of addicts. According to Mulvey, heroin users can be kids who are doing well in school or involved in athletics. “By the time parents become aware that there is a problem, it is too late. Their kids are hooked,” he said.

Jeff Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD), said that our image of a heroin user is someone who is in New York City, likely poor, a guy laying on the side of the road with a needle in his arm. “It’s not a 16-year-old cheerleader from a well-off, middle class community and that’s suburban denial. It has given heroin a big head-start on our community,” he said.

Reynolds said among the changes to look for in people who are using heroin are big changes in friends, money or personality or medicine missing from the medicine cabinet. “Parents have said they don’t want to snoop,” he said. “[But] this is a life-and-death situation. We always tell parents to trust their gut, trust your intuition. As parents, we know when something is up.”

If you suspect your son or daughter is using drugs or alcohol, call LICADD at 516-747-2606 or for more information, visit licadd.com.