NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Long Island elected officials were in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to advocate for federal help in the opioid and alcohol addiction crisis.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, the numbers of those needing help for drug and alcohol addiction were decreasing, but now the numbers have increased significantly.
“Somewhere along the way, not a judgment, liquor stores were deemed essential businesses. So we've seen calls where, as the old song goes ‘it's 5:00 somewhere,’ after 5, started at 4, started at 3 and somewhere in mid-summer they're waking up around the clock using alcohol for self-medication. What are they medicating? Fear, insecurity, joblessness, family dysfunction,” said Steve Chassman, executive director of Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran were fighting for federal dollars to help with critical services to help those with addictions.
“This isn’t amount budgets, this isn’t about dollars. At the end of the day, this is about people’s lives in crisis,” Bellone said
Bellone says public health programs that provide mental health and addiction services to Long Islanders would continue to be cut if the federal government does not send additional money to local governments.
He said Wednesday that the lobbying effort was to show lawmakers the human impact of the pandemic on hard-hit communities like Long Island.
Curran stressed that the federal help would directly help Long Island residents struggling.
“To make sure that we have what we need to help our residents to help our communities remained stable,” she said.
Both counties say they will need to reduce services and lay off staff to cover a $1.5 billion budget deficit over the next year, if federal help is not received.