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Suffolk County to offer anti-heroin drug Vivitrol to help users beat addiction

Suffolk County officials will push the use of an injected drug for blocking the "high" from heroin and prescription pill use at county facilities and through drug treatment centers, County Executive Steve Bellone announced Monday.

Officials will encourage the use of the drug Vivitrol at drug court, through the probation department, at the county's jails, and at nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment centers, he said.

The county has also hired a drug treatment educator for a pilot program at the county's largest school district, Sachem, to train high school students in peer-to-peer counseling.

Bellone called the effort "another tool" in the county's battle against heroin, which drug treatment experts say continues to plague Long Island and Suffolk County.

Vivitrol, the time-release form of naltrexone, is injected once a month and blocks opioid receptors in the brain. The drug was approved for opioid dependence in 2010, and was approved to treat alcohol dependence in 2006, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration.

"In layman's terms, it prevents a person from getting high," Assistant Deputy County Executive Timothy Sini said at a news conference. He will head a working group, with Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, county probation staff and department of health staff, to promote the use of the drug.

Sini said there's no county money earmarked for Vivitrol — which can cost as much as $1,100 per shot. County officials have applied for some grants, he said, and most insurance programs cover the prescription.

At the news conference, Steven Chassman, who is the executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, called Vivitrol "an effective tool to help" that has to be paired with substance-abuse treatment.

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