Nassau County renews fight against opioid crisis

Time doesn't heal all wounds for Victor Ciappa. It has been 13 years since his daughter Natalie was found unresponsive the morning after a party. Ever since then, he's been trying to raise awareness to help save others. He never knew his daughter was addicted to heroin.

"Every day is yesterday," Ciappa said. "Gifted kid, perfect kid, never got into trouble and that's why she found trouble."

On Tuesday, Nassau County Police announced the re-engagement of Operation Natalie, which was founded three years ago and named after Ciappa's daughter.

"We were winning the battle," Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. "We were reducing our numbers in '17, '18, and '19 and then we got hit with COVID."

The multi-prong approach to fight the opioid crisis was yielding results. It zeroed in on hot spots in the community and offered prevention programs in schools. But it was put on pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to police, there have been 76 fatal overdoses so far this year. Experts have found drug users between the ages of 21 and 30 have the highest overdose numbers. In many cases, these people aren't in school, don't have a job (or lost it during COVID), and found themselves struggling.

"You took stress associated with the pandemic and job loss, layer a shift in drug supply and there was no treatment for folks who wound up with a problem," Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds of the Family and Children's Association said. 

Right now, Nassau County has four dogs trained in drug recognition. The police department will also be adding a problem-oriented police officer, also known as a POP, to each precinct to help combat the opioid crisis.

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