An approach that was recently implemented by law enforcement officials in Mineola, New York has been prioritizing addiction treatment over imprisonment and proving to be successful.
Local officials and Nassau County residents gathered at the beginning of the month during a community forum that highlighted the success of the approach called ‘Operation Natalie,’ which focuses on outreach efforts geared toward individuals who have overdosed in the region.
Addiction treatment specialists and other healthcare professionals were also present at the community forum and they emphasized that the operation has significantly assisted the area fight against the effects of the opioid epidemic.
Approximately one week after a drug overdose occurs, local law enforcement officials will reach out to the survivors and make sure that they have the ability to get all of the resources that they may need.
The resources the officials aim to provide to the overdose survivors include orientation about drug addiction treatment programs in the area and the admission process as well as counseling, drug detoxification and more.
The operation is named after Natalie Ciappa, a Nassau County resident who passed away after an opioid overdose in 2008 when she was just 18 years old.
That year, Ciappa was among 137 people who died due to an opioid-related overdose in Long Island.
Her parents decided that her death would not be in vain. They reached out to the Nassau County district attorney’s office and started a campaign to promote awareness about the use of toxic substances among teens and young adults.
The efforts made by Nassau County officials as well as community members such as the Ciappa family are just now shown to be effective.
According to reports provided this month by the Nassau County medical examiner’s office, the region has seen a decrease of 30 percent in non-fatal drug overdoses since last January.
This is the first time in five years that the county has seen a decrease in the number of non-fatal drug overdoses. The number of drug overdose deaths has also gone down significantly for the first time and local law enforcement officials have stated that Operation Natalie deserves the credit for the reduction.
The effort has also been endorsed by several other authorities in addition to being supported by the local drug court, which has helped a number of criminal offenders stay away from drugs without imprisonment.
Operation Natalie started seven years ago and since its launch, it has been targeting one location at a time. The location that officials are currently targeting is Valley Stream, also in Nassau County. During the recent community event, the mayor of the city expressed support for the initiative and highlighted the gravity of the public health crisis caused by drugs in the area.
Local law enforcement officials are also encouraging parents to monitor their children as well as have any substance that is found in their possession tested for free in a local precinct.
More meetings and community forums to target the local opioid crisis are expected to happen in the near future.