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Nassau DA pledges money for teen addiction treatments

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas shared on Monday, Sept. 21, 2016, plans to kick-start programming for teen addiction treatments. She pitched a public drug and alcohol treatment center for teenagers, which would be the first in the county, and is pledging to fund it with $2 million in asset forfeiture money. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, seeking to stem the deadly tide of heroin addiction among teenagers, pledged $2 million Monday to kick-start emergency drug-addiction treatment for adolescents.

Singas on Monday issued a request for proposals to provide addiction services for adolescents ages 13 to 17 who have overdosed or are in the grips of addiction — seeking to close a crucial gap in care for teens.

The money from the district attorney’s asset-forfeiture funds will be awarded to up to three providers over a three-year period, keeping high-risk teens off the streets as their long-term treatment plans are developed. It is believed to be the first iniatitive of its kind in the county to target teenagers.

“Addiction is here; it’s real,” Singas said Monday. “It is affecting our kids at school. It’s affecting people at work. It’s tearing up families and we need to intervene to make sure there are services available.”

Fatal overdoses across Long Island have shown no signs of slowing down. Nassau clocked a record number of fatal heroin overdoses last year — 58 — and Suffolk tallied more than 100 deaths for the third consecutive year, according to statistics. Although police have used the heroin antidote naloxone, or Narcan, to save hundreds of addicts’ lives last year.

While some parents can afford to send their children to expensive drug-rehabilitation centers, which aren’t always covered by health insurance, Singas said, others are left struggling after a drug-addicted child is released from an emergency room with instructions from well-meaning medical professionals, but without a comprehesive plan to help their child beat addiction.

Steven Chassman, executive director of the Mineola-based Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said he was heartened that the district attorney’s office was looking for ways to deal with drug and alcohol abuse, other than through a strictly law enforcement lens.

“We commend DA Singas,” Chassman said. “We gotta do more than just lock them up.”

LICADD, in its 60th year, serves more than 1,000 people a month, and around half of the clients are 25 or younger. Services for teens are limited, Chassman said, but are much needed.

The request for proposals requires the providers to be available on a 24-hour basis every day of the year, be at no out-of-pocket cost to clients, and must be licensed by the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services.

County Executive Edward Mangano also praised Singas for using money seized from criminal activity to fight the heroin scourge and predicted the plan would be a success.

Singas said her office funding drug treatment isn’t new — citing the $585,000 used for 35 beds at the Maryhaven’s Hope Crisis Center in Freeport for addicts who overdosed and have nowhere to go — but part of a larger role as “crime prevention stewards.”

“We’re looking for success here,” Singas said. “It’s not just a bandage and then putting them out on the street again. It’s making sure — how can we make sure this 17-year-old will beat this addiction? What does this 17-year-old need and this family need so that we can up the odds so that they can lead a productive life free of addiction?”

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