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Jan 28, 2019 4:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East End's First Opioid Forum Gaining Traction With Local And State Officials

The East End's first opioid forum will be held at the The Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons on February 6. VALERIE GORDON
Jan 29, 2019 5:20 PM

The East End’s upcoming opioid forum has piqued the interest of several state and local legislators, who have added their names to the roster of those attending.

The “Stories of Suffolk” forum, to be held on February 6 at the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons, is intended to bring experts—including medical providers, academic scholars, community advocates, law enforcement officers, state officials, and recovering addicts—together to discuss the next step in local efforts to fight the nationwide epidemic.

The latest addition of current and former federal and state elected officials planning to participate include former U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Southampton Village Mayor Michael Irving, and New York State Senator Peter Harckham, who also serves as chairman of the New York State Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

The conference—a joint effort by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office and the Albany-based Rockefeller Institute of Government—will be split into two separate panels: prevention methods and treatment and recovery options.

Suffolk County Deputy Director for Performance Management Steve Randazzo explained that each of the experts will offer individualized perspectives and insight. The plan is to hash out the problems within the East End community and find tailored solutions.

“The way I see it, we have a tremendous diversity of perspectives in the room,” he said, pointing to both the Suffolk County and Southampton Town opioid task forces—both of which have come up with several recommendations to address the crisis. “It’s about getting people in the room to talk about what are the gaps and the barriers to making those recommendations.”

On Monday, Mr. Harckham, who just began his duties as the drug abuse committee chair on January 7, added that it’s important to get as many local and state experts together to learn from each other and develop, or in some cases replicate, preventative and recovery strategies.

“We’re all partners in this,” he said. “Some people are doing very interesting and innovative things and we have to harness the best of these—replicate them so people aren’t reinventing the wheel.”

In a recent press release, Mr. Bellone said he was pleased to see the forum gaining traction. “The opioid epidemic does not recognize or respect artificial political boundaries, which is why we need a comprehensive effort to combat this crisis on Long Island,” he said.

On Monday, Mr. Bishop said his primary goal in attending the conference is to learn. However, he said as a former congressman and college administrator, he will contribute in any way he can.

Mr. Bishop was the representative for New York’s 1st Congressional District from 2003 to 2015. Prior to that, he was the provost of Southampton College, what is now Stony Brook Southampton. In 2015, he assumed his current position as the director of the Center for Community Solutions at St. Joseph’s College, where he works primarily to improve access to affordable housing.

“It’s an issue of utmost importance on the East End,” Mr. Bishop said of the opioid epidemic. “I want to see where the center has a role to play. If there is anything I can bring to the table then I’m happy to share it.”

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