A $100,000 donation recently made from a Southampton church to the Southampton Police Department is expected to help the town's Opioid Addiction and Recovery Committee in its efforts to tackle the drug crisis.
The Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons donated the money to the police department on Aug. 25 as part of its annual Blue Dream Summer Gala, a fundraising event that benefits local charities.
Father Alexander Karloutsos, protopresbyter for the church, said on Wednesday that the church — which has donated more than $1.2 million to charities through the gala since its inception in 2012 — was “inspired” by recent town and police neighborhood initiatives to increase opioid awareness, such as educational programs for youths.
“It reminded us that we’re all part of a greater, the community family,” Karloutsos said. “We saw that the police were doing the right things, and they don’t really get enough money to do job training necessary for those things, so we decided that this [donation] was for our children, for our neighbors and for our sisters that are in need.”
Town officials said there were an estimated 14 opioid-related deaths in Southampton from January to August 2017, according to figures provided by town officials. This year, opioid-related deaths fell to three to date, a 78.5 percent decrease.
“I am very encouraged by the drop in [opioid-related] deaths, and I certainly hope that it’s attributed to some of the work that we’re doing,” Town Supervisor Jay Schneidermansaid Thursday.
While the donation can be used in whatever way a group sees fit, the money will be placed into a fund and all expenditures will have to be approved by the Town Board after police officials make their recommendations on how to use the money, Schneiderman said.
Most of the money will likely go toward opioid addiction treatment programs and education, Schneiderman said, while the rest could be spent on new police equipment — such as body cameras — and community-based initiatives to encourage trust between police and the community.
“It will definitely assist law enforcement, but the focus will be on the opioid crisis,” Schneiderman said.
Southampton police Lt. Susan Ralph said Thursday that the donation was “greatly appreciated” and would “help us make the department better.”
Father Constantine Lazarakis, presbyter for the church and a member of the opioid committee, said he had seen through his own church the effects of the opioid crisis. Some of his congregation, ranging from those in their early 20s to senior citizens, have struggled with opioid addiction.
“There is no community that is immune to this thing,” Lazarakis said. “Addiction doesn’t discriminate, so nobody can think they’re immune.”