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Jack Martins proposes opioid treatment center in Nassau

GOP Nassau County Executive candidate Jack Martins, center,

GOP Nassau County Executive candidate Jack Martins, center, talks outside the Williston Park Fire House in Williston Park on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

GOP Nassau County Executive candidate Jack Martins announced a plan Tuesday to convert vacant space at Nassau University Medical Center into a treatment center for opioid addicts and require overdose victims to be held in a hospital for a 72-hour observation period.

“Long Island has been at the epicenter of the heroin epidemic that has affected our entire country,” Martins, a former state senator, said at a news conference in Williston Park. “To solve this crisis, we need innovative solutions and a commitment to help those struggling with addiction.”

Under the $2 million anti-opioid initiative, two unused floors at NUMC would be converted into a 24-hour crisis treatment center for heroin and opioid addicts.

“There is an incredible need right now for beds,” said Martins, citing the eight inpatient drug treatment beds lost with the closing of Long Beach Medical Center after superstorm Sandy.

Martins declined to detail the cost of the treatment center, but said federal and state grants may be available.

NUMC spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said the hospital would “welcome the opportunity to expand our services but will require significant investments in capital that we do not have.”

Last year, 190 people died in Nassau from heroin and opioid overdoses, according to county data.

Martins also wants the GOP-controlled county legislature to pass a bill requiring a mandatory 72-hour post-overdose hold at all Nassau hospitals. Currently, he said, many addicts revived by Narcan sign themselves immediately out of the hospital without receiving treatment or counseling.

Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), one of three GOP lawmakers to attend the news conference, said initially he was unsure if the county could enforce a mandatory hold without state legislation. But after speaking with a legislative attorney, Nicolello issued a statement saying Martins’ proposal “is absolutely worthy of the serious review of our caucus.”

Nationwide, 37 states have a mandatory post-overdose holds.

Democratic County Executive candidate Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) said the heroin epidemic “has reached a crisis point that requires federal and state funding to help close the treatment gap.”

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, Curran’s Democratic primary opponent, said he wants “more effective community policing, increased counseling in schools and more focused law enforcement targeting the supply sources.”

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