Thanksgiving, the kick-off to the annual holiday season that stretches through the new year, is a time when families come together to express thanks for the many blessings they have received over the past year. But for too many people on the East End, it is also a time of despair and grief, as they struggle to understand the drug addiction that is affecting more and more families and turning both the addict’s and his or her loved one’s lives upside down.
In Southampton, where the growing opioid crisis has already claimed 17 lives this year and is relentlessly pursuing many, many more, town officials last month established a task force to come up with a plan of action to be presented to the town board by next June.
“I have faith in this community that by coming together, we will identify the next potential victim and get to them before heroin, fentanyl or OxyContin does,” said Supervisor Jay Schneiderman at the task force’s first public event, a forum held at Hampton Bays High School last week.
Faith and hope are good attributes, but let’s face it, the task force has its work cut out for it. Both prevention and treatment programs that might be expected to help reverse the opioid crisis require the kind of resources that are increasingly hard to find in an era of tax caps and ever more competition for public funding.
Plus, as some attendees readily pointed out, the task force needs to become more diverse if its members are to fully understand the issues they are being asked to tackle. While it is obvious, the task force is made up of skilled and caring people, there was nobody under the age of 40 sitting in the front of the auditorium. Similarly, the Reverend Michael Smith of the Shinnecock Nation was the only non-white seated at the table.
Anyone who has ever gone into battle knows that accurate intelligence is vital to their success. By reaching out to the young people and minorities who are most affected by the opioid crisis, the task force will be better armed to provide sensible solutions that can be implemented on the town level.