Letter To The Editor From Legislator William Spencer
October 3, 2012
Last Friday night I attended a very powerful and inspiring event at Saint Patrick’s Church in Huntington. The event, presented by The Fallen on Long Island, was entitled “Speak Up Long Island!” The topics discussed included: an overview of the drug epidemic and crisis on Long Island; a synopsis of substance use, abuse and dependence; and the signs and symptoms of a user. The most moving part of the event was the personal stories of loss shared by the families. There was a prayer service for community health and following the program, there was a candlelight vigil to commemorate those Long Island residents who have succumbed to the disease of drug addiction.
If you are not aware of the severity of this problem, the statistics are staggering. Did you know that on average one person dies everyday on Long Island from the effects of substance abuse? Yes, one a day!
Families and friends of these victims often grieve quietly while the community as a whole busies themselves with the chores of daily living. We simply go on as if nothing has happened because we are not aware of the impact this issue has on our community. As a physician, father of three children and your legislator, I would like you to know that our children are dying at an epidemic rate and we must do something about it – now!
I practice medicine to help keep people healthy. I serve this community as your legislator to do the same thing only with different tools. One of those tools is the Operating Budget. The recommended 2012 Operating Budget has just come out and the County once again faces very difficult choices. A large deficit still exists, even after my colleagues and I made some tough decisions earlier this year. For the first time in decades we had to lay-off employees. Although I worked hard to save as many jobs as possible by reprioritizing the Health Department, the cuts were very painful for those involved, especially the employees.
Now, as my colleagues and I pour over the 2012 Operating Budget, I will ask them to remember the families of the fallen on Long Island. We, as a Legislature, need to increase education and prevention measures to head-off the epidemic. We need to stand up for those who struggle with addiction and fight to get them the treatment they need before it’s too late. Furthermore, we need to ensure that police and public safety departments also have the resources they need to keep drugs from getting into the hands of our loved ones. I challenge all elected officials, from our Congressmen to our local Village Trustees, to prioritize non-profit contract agencies that provide these vital services. This is not “pork” or an “earmark”! This is your representatives working to protect the health and safety of the residents of Long Island by helping to fund the prevention of and treatment for a pervasive, deadly disease that affects one Nassau or Suffolk County family each day! Let’s come together as a community to fight the epidemic that has spread into our neighborhoods. Let’s tell the families that have suffered the loss of a loved one to drugs that we are here for them and we will make the tough decisions to ensure that no other family has to endure the same suffering. Let’s support prevention and treatment agencies with our time, money and moral support.
If you are suffering with the loss of a loved one to drugs, know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. If someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, know you are not alone, there is support close by. If you need help personally, all you have to do is ask! We are in this fight together. Please contact my office or one of the agencies that sponsored the Stand-Up Long Island event and we will get you the resources you need. Consider this my prescription for community health and let the healing begin.
Sincerely, William R. Spencer
Suffolk County Legislator 18th Legislative District