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Jul 24, 2018 11:12 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Policing The Problem That's Everyone's Problem

Jul 24, 2018 2:34 PM

Shelter Island Police Chief Jim Read and Detective Sergeant Jack Thilberg spoke recently about opioid addiction on Shelter Island and how the police department is responding.

“I’m not saying this is a massive problem for Shelter Island, but for those families, it is a massive problem,” Chief Read said. “It tears up the lives of everybody around them.”

“It becomes all of our problem,” Det. Sgt. Thilberg said. “There is an impact across the community.”

Shelter Island Police and Emergency Medical Service volunteers carry Narcan, a drug that when administered promptly can block the effects of an opioid overdose. Since 2013, there have been seven Narcan “saves” on the island.

Using inhalers to administer the life-saving drug, rather than injections, has made it easier and more efficient to bring people back from death’s door. The Shelter Island EMS, as part of a pilot program run by New York State, became one of the groundbreaking EMS units in the state to employ the inhalers.

When people struggle with addiction, they may go through periods of sobriety, only to relapse. “It becomes cyclical,” Chief Read said. “We make arrests to try to break the cycle. Often the family is hoping that we can arrest the person, because, in custody, at least they can be monitored. We will make every effort to make an arrest, to try to get the person going in a better direction.”

The police department now administers a prescription drug drop-off program, initiated by the Shelter Island Pharmacy, as a way of removing leftover prescription opioids from homes where they could get into the wrong hands, or find their way into the aquifer if disposed of improperly.

Det. Sgt. Thilberg said the department took in 160 pounds of drugs, or about 10 banker’s boxes full of prescription medication, over the course of a year. The program has been in place for two years, and the volume of drugs turned over has increased year to year.

CHARITY ROBEY

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