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Nassau officials: Deaths up from cocaine mixed with opioids

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano announced on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, the first Bi-County Recovery Health & Wellness Expo, which will be hosted on Saturday at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, in light of newly released statistics on Nassau County's opioid crisis, which officials said shows an uptick in deaths from the use of cocaine mixed with heroin or fentanyl. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

Newly released statistics on Nassau County’s opioid crisis show an uptick in deaths from the use of cocaine mixed with heroin or fentanyl, officials said on Friday.

The statistics, from the county medical examiner’s office, also showed a drop in the number of heroin-related deaths while fatal overdoses caused by fentanyl and other fentanyl analogues have risen.

The new data come a day before county officials host a wellness expo intended to provide those affected by the opioid crisis with critical information about awareness and recovery.

“While cocaine has always been a dangerous drug, it is far more dangerous when we start to include other drugs such as fentanyl,” said Joseph Avella, chief toxicologist for the county Medical Examiner.

The data show 80 deaths related to the lethal mixture in 2016, a jump from 60 in 2015. So far this year, there have been 30 deaths through July 28, officials said.

In 2016, there were 53 heroin-related deaths, down from 66 the previous year, the data show. The combination of heroin plus fentanyl along with its analogues was listed as 81 deaths in 2016, a big jump from 31 a year earlier, records show.

Overall, Nassau County saw a record number of opioid-related deaths in 2016 with 195, up from 177 in 2015, statistics show. As of May 29, there have been 68 opioid-related deaths so far this year. And of those deaths, 23 were due to fentanyl, records show.

Avella said the slight decline in opioid-related fatalities may be due to pending cases that have not yet been finalized. Those cases could cause the number to rise after a final cause of death is determined, Avella said.

“In many cases, it is our belief that the people abusing these drugs do not realize that these drugs are being added to the heroin that they’re trying to abuse and as a result, we’ve seen an increase in the number of deaths,” Avella said.

Saturday’s health and wellness expo will be held on Field 8 at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow from 2 to 5 p.m., officials said.

“This fentanyl, in many different forms, is attacking our county and causing deaths. It is a very dangerous mix and it is one that we see increasing,” said County Executive Edward Mangano.

Lisa Kassler, from Plainview, lost her son, Garrett, who would have been 27 this month, to heroin in February. She’s still heartbroken, she said. They had spent the day together and she was making him a turkey sandwich while he showered. When he didn’t come down 30 minutes later, she went to check on him and found him unresponsive.

“He was doing so well. He was happy,” Kassler said. “Never in a million years would I have thought that this would have happened that day.”

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