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Opioid funds and wearing masks on the LIRR

Commuters wearing masks board a train Thursday in

Commuters wearing masks board a train Thursday in Hicksville. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Opioid funds must go to proper places

The money for opioid settlements soon will arrive in the coffers of Suffolk and Nassau counties ["$50 million in opioid settlements on Long Island," News, July 13]. We need to take a hard look at this.

In 1998, the Master Settlement Agreement between 46 states and other entities and the major tobacco companies they sued ended in a multibillion award in the form of a structured settlement over future years.

The MSA was eyed greedily by many localities as a financial windfall to plug up budget deficits or fund local projects. In some instances, like in Nassau, those funds were "securitized" almost immediately, whereby the municipality received an upfront payment of pennies on the dollar against future payments.

Other places, such as Suffolk, spent some on a comprehensive tobacco control program to address the complex issue of tobacco use and nicotine addiction.

Let’s not repeat the policies of many municipalities that shared a similar benefit years ago and failed to use the funds to address the addiction needs of their communities. The current lawsuits were to pay back money previously spent to treat substance abuse and addicted individuals and to prevent this crisis from recurring.

Successful remediation requires thoughtful planning and adequate funding for professional health programs, not pet projects of politicians who will decide the fate of this settlement. Adding professional staff to local health departments, which have been underfunded for years, to expand treatment and prevention programs would, I expect, achieve the same level of success as that in Suffolk County with its tobacco control program.

The opioid epidemic and its consequences continue. The impact of effective treatment programs cannot be overstated. The key now is to use these funds for exactly the purpose they were intended: prevention and treatment.

— Patricia Bishop-Kelly, Huntington

The writer is the advocacy chair on the board of advisers of the American Cancer Society Long Island region.

When patients leave a hospital and are told they will be given "medication for pain," they are not told it is going to be an opioid. This is where change must start.

As an advocate, I have asked the doctor: Is that pain medication an opioid? They almost always say "yes," and now the patient can make an informed choice about taking a drug that has the potential to be addictive.

Much attention is given to stopping addiction but almost none to educating the public on how to avoid becoming addicted.

Before the pandemic, family members were encouraged to fully participate in a patient’s care. Generally, following surgery or an injury, a groggy patient might not ask whether the prescribed pain medication could be addictive.

Limited visiting hours may make it challenging for family involvement, and a support person might not be with the patient to question what the pain medication is, or whether it is addictive.

Many people become addicted when they could have been satisfied with an over-the-counter pain medication.

— Ilene Corina, Wantagh

The writer is a Board Certified Patient Advocate.

LIRR should enforce wearing masks

After reading about the percentage increase in COVID-19, I believe one way to help lower the numbers would be if the Long Island Rail Road enforced mandatory mask wearing ["Unvaccinated, variant send new LI virus cases up 77%," News, July 16].

The LIRR makes announcements that there could be a $50 fine if one doesn’t abide by this mandate, but conductors don’t seem to do anything to enforce this when riders blatantly don’t wear masks.

As more of us return to the office on the LIRR, the odds of being exposed to someone who has COVID-19 increases. If those not wearing masks aren’t vaccinated, they not only jeopardize themselves but other riders.

The LIRR frequently talks about other aspects of rail safety. Shouldn’t this include protecting riders from those who might have the coronavirus?

LIRR conductors, please do your job and enforce the mandatory mask wearing in the train cars.

— Barry Katz, Plainview

As an aside to this news about changes in the LIRR fare structure, it would be interesting to know the amount of overtime paid to its employees since the lockdown, and compare it to previous years ["LIRR eyes new ticket plans," News, July 12].

With ridership down, we would expect to see a significant decrease in this number.

— Michael C. Lefkowitz, East Meadow

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