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Long Island

Faces in the battle against drugs in LI's black community

Anthony Rizzuto, 48, a treatment coordinator for Seafield treatment centers, which has centers in both Nassau and Suffolk counties:

We’re seeing a lot more Caucasians using heroin,” Rizzuto said. “Today, in a short period of time, from onset of drug usage to usage of heroin is a much shorter period.”

Based in Westhampton Beach, Seafield is a 90-bed inpatient detox rehabilitation center for people 16 and up. There are also five outpatient facilities, four in Suffolk and one in Nassau.

Rizzuto recently conducted a group-therapy session for men who are abusive toward women and also have substance abuse problems. Nearly everyone there was white.

“I don’t know why,” Rizzuto said, adding that his best guess would be that white kids tend to abuse prescription painkillers first, “which then opens the door to heroin.”

Mel Jackson, head of Leadership Training Institute, a nonprofit community support group in Hempstead, on community and law enforcement focus on heroin use on Long Island:

It’s saying we have a problem that arose out of nowhere. We don’t make the connection that the problem has been here all along and it didn’t justify our attention. You don’t see the strategic links between white folks saying, ‘We have a problem here,’ and our [blacks] saying we’ve had a problem all along.”

George Siberone, executive director of the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association:

I don’t think our community suffers any more or any less in terms of heroin addiction. I’ve never had a referral or somebody coming in looking for drug treatment. There’s a significant [undocumented] immigrant population. For them to acknowledge drug use, they see it as a form of deportation. If they are [addicted], they’re trying to deal with it in a way without getting any assistance.”
 

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