Help addicted Long Islanders by seeking their input

George Basile is a member of Suffolk County Next Generation Advisory Council.

Suffolk County needs a youth opiate advisory committee — we all do.

The opioid epidemic is killing people everyday, namely young people. We’ve received a microscopic amount of good news in the form of statistics alleging the deaths caused by overdoses have fallen (fatal opioid overdoses dropped a combined 24 percent in Nassau and Suffolk). While we may feel cautiously optimistic because of this, we must remember that many overdose deaths go unreported due to the still ever-present stigmatization of drug use. The true gravity of the situation is understood by no one — we can only fathom the true existential consequences of the crisis and its ramifications that will be felt generations from now.

Sound policy is the product of a number of factors, with the most important being stakeholder input. Having spent time implementing policies on recovery housing at the college level, as well as advocating for better policies regarding curbing the epidemic at the Suffolk County Legislature, I’ve seen the best, as well as the worst, of policy endeavors.

Currently, Suffolk does have an Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel which meets periodically. What’s common in all good policy-making is the active pursuit of stakeholder input. I commend these leaders and their efforts. I understand they are well-meaning in their proposals, however, some of their proposals could fail to reach the stakeholders the policies intend to help.

After attending a meeting of the panel, I noticed there was a general theme to the solutions that the panel had proposed. Although the panel sought to increase the opportunity to reach young people, it was missing the mark with regards to policy messaging. Some sought to engage youth populations by advertising before movies, a form of media which young people have been straying from for decades now as evidenced by falling box office revenues. Some proposals harkened back to the stone ages of the failed War on Drugs by offering solutions through punitive action. What’s common in these proposals is the failure to reach young people, or, the active impugning of empirically supported solutions.

People ages 18 to 30 are those who are most likely to become affected by Substance Use Disorder (SUD). These people need to be heard in order to germinate good policy discourse, and create better policies surrounding the epidemic. It’s time we include them through official designations and groups whose single purpose is to seek their input and create good policy recommendations.