District Attorney McMahon and Borough President Fossella to Form “Staten Island Fentanyl and Overdose Task Force”
The Group, Formed After Governor Hochul’s “Farce” of a Statewide Task Force was Announced, to be Composed of Local Treatment Providers, Health Professionals, Law Enforcement, and, Critically, Those Fighting Addiction and Family Members of Those Impacted by the Disease
Task Force Will Provide Real Policy and Legislative Recommendations to City, State, and Federal Lawmakers and Make Critically Important Funding Requests for Those on the Frontlines of the Fight for Those Struggling with Substance Disorders and the Safety of our Communities
Today, Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon and Borough President Vito J. Fossella announced the formation of the Staten Island Fentanyl and Overdose Task Force, to be made up of local leaders in law enforcement, government, treatment and recovery, and most importantly those battling addiction illness and their loved ones. The group, whose first meeting and full membership will be announced in the coming days, will form after Governor Hochul announced her “Interagency Task Force on Overdose Prevention” last week. The Governor’s announcement came after inexplicably vetoing legislation last year, sponsored by former Staten
Island elected officials Assemblyman Cusick and Senator Savino, to create a statewide Fentanyl Task Force.
“When Governor Hochul vetoed legislation to create a statewide Fentanyl Task Force, we joined our neighbors in outrage, confusion, and impatience at the total dismissal of a drug epidemic that reached deadly new heights last year, killing over 100,000 Americans, among them 146 Staten Islanders; fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, friends and colleagues are no longer with us because of the scourge of opioids and fentanyl” said District Attorney McMahon.
“Since the Governor’s veto, we were repeatedly told that law enforcement, treatment providers, health officials, and most importantly, the families whose lives have been torn apart by addiction and overdose, would be part of a Fentanyl Task Force formed by the Governor herself, but unfortunately that promise was not upheld.
So, Staten Islanders will do what we always do: take matters into our own hands and look out for one another when our elected leaders fall short. I am honored to join Borough President Fossella and an amazing group of Staten Islanders in this effort, and look forward to sharing real, meaningful, and critically needed improvements to our collective response to the drug crisis with our government leaders in the weeks and months to come.”
Borough President Fossella said “Based on what we see, the state’s Interagency Task Force on Overdose Prevention does not go far enough. In our opinion, it will not include individuals and organizations that truly understand the gravity of this problem, and that can offer more tangible and real solutions. This terrible epidemic has claimed the lives of far too many Staten Islanders to be left so woefully under-addressed. We know that 80% of overdose deaths on Staten Island are linked to fentanyl use. This new task force, when it begins operations, will be a critical piece in assessing the very real consequences of fentanyl use on its victims and their families, and delivering real, attainable legislative recommendations to the state government.”
Dr. Joseph Conte, Executive Director of Staten Island Performing Provider System said “The overdose crisis is the single most critical healthcare and societal threat facing Staten Islanders today, its ramifications will be felt for generations. External agencies and other governmental units have completely ignored Staten Island needs. I applaud the forward thinking of our Borough President Vito Fossella and District Attorney, Michael McMahon to assemble a working task force to identify solutions and resources needed to combat this scourge.”
Dr. Joel A. Idowu, Director of Residency Training at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Richmond University Medical Center said “I eagerly look forward to partnering with others on the task force and hopeful that this will be the catalyst to finally addressing the scourge that has ravaged our community for far too long.”
Candace Crupi, a Staten Islander who lost her son to addiction and overdose, said “Back in the seventies, I saw the devastation of heroin, never thinking it would hit my family years later. Kids were dying and people were quietly trying to get help. I can’t tell you how many rehabs and detoxes [my son] Johnny was in and kicked out of because he wasn’t ready to share, or he wasn’t following the program. His counselors loved him, and he was trying, just not succeeding.
They hated to tell him he couldn’t come back. I’m starting to see a little change in the way rehabs are treating addiction. They’re working with the addicts on a more personal basis because addiction isn’t a one size fits all kind of problem. I just think we have to do more.”
Staten Island remains in the grips of a drug epidemic that has claimed 838 of our neighbors since 2016. Two-thirds of those fatal overdoses were linked to fentanyl, with over 80% of overdoses in 2022 caused at least in part by fentanyl and its analogs. The severity of this crisis demands an urgency that we frankly have not seen from those in leadership, and the group of state agency leaders who make up Governor Hochul’s Task Force is not in the best position to develop and implement real solutions to provide meaningful relief to those that need it. Conceived in an echo chamber, it lacks members who live and have lived it each and every day. A Task Force without local treatment providers, elected leaders, law enforcement, and most importantly: those suffering from addiction and their families is ill-equipped to succeed.
The Staten Island Fentanyl and Overdose Task Force will host its inaugural meeting in the coming weeks and will work together to develop and propose real legislative and policy recommendations to our leaders in local, state, and federal government based on the on-the-ground reality of the epidemic that has taken too many of our loved ones.
While additional members may be forthcoming, the Staten Island Fentanyl and Overdose Task Force is comprised of the following members:
– District Attorney Michael E. McMahon – Staten Island Borough President Vito J. Fossella – Dr. Ram Raju, Staten Island Borough President’s Office – Dr. Joe Conte, Staten Island Performing Provider System – Adrienne Abbate, Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness – Jacqueline Filis, YMCA of Greater New York – Luka Nasta, Camelot Counseling of Staten Island – Gary Butchen, Bridge Back to Life – Patricia O’Rourke, Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing (GRASP) – Dr. Joel Idowu, Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC) – Paul Lebowitz, Primary Care – Mayank Parikh, Super Health Pharmacy – Candace Crupi, Survivor – Diane Arneth, Community Health Action of Staten Island (CHASI) – Ilena Acosta, RUMC Silberstein Treatment Center – Alyssa Calandra, Staten Island Justice Center – Soni Kada, Staten Island Justice Center – Inspector Mark C. Molinari, NYPD Detective Borough Staten Island
Banner Image: Overdose. Image Credit – HASTYWORDS