Opioid Crisis: Fighting addiction on Long Island

With opioids and heroin claiming more lives on Long Island every day, Nassau County is throwing a lifeline to those struggling with addiction by holding a special event for anyone who needs help.

"No parent should ever feel pain like this -- ever," said Lisa Kassler. She and her husband, Lee, lost their son Garrett to drugs in February.  He was 26.

"Garrett never wanted to become an addict," Lee Kassler said. "He just wanted to live the life like everyone else."

Garrett is part of this saddening statistic. New data from the Nassau Medical Examiner's Office shows that opioid use has claimed the lives of 68 people in 2017. While fatal heroin overdoses have decreased over the past two years, the number of deaths from mixing drugs has nearly tripled. 

"What we're finding us a lot of co-use of cocaine along with one of the other opiates, whether it be heroin, fentanyl, or both," said Joseph Avella, the chief toxicologist for the Nassau County Medical Examiner. "Of the number of deaths so far this year, about 70 percent of the cocaine-associated deaths also had an opioid present."

Officials and advocates said education and awareness are key. More than 1,400 people died from heroin or prescription pain pill overdoses on Long Island between 2012 and 2015.

"Knowledge is power – we have to get the word out," said Esther Bryant of Great Escape Substance Abuse Training and Information.

A recovery health and wellness expo featuring yoga and meditation will be at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on Saturday afternoon. Residents will also have the opportunity to speak to local agencies from Nassau and Suffolk counties.

"We need more people, more awareness, more education, more treatment," Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said.

We can't bring Garrett back but we could keep his memory alive by spreading the word," Lee Kassler said.

Spreading the word that there is a road to recovery.