Fentanyl is the number one public health crisis in the country and the number one cause of death for people 18-45 years of age.

Parents who have lost children to fentanyl poisonings and the opioid epidemic did not let Fentanyl Awareness Day go unnoticed. The morning of May 7 started with a demonstration along RT25A in Setauket during commuting time, with families who have been personally affected holding signs stating “Do you know someone who had died from fentanyl poisoning? We do.”


Fentanyl is the number one public health crisis in the country and the number one cause of death for people 18-45 years of age, yet the urgency of the issue seems to have dropped down the list of national priorities.


The demonstration was followed by an event at Thrive Recovery Center in Hauppauge which featured special guest speaker Dr. Stephen Loyd.  Michael Keaton’s character in the Hulu series Dopesick is based in part on the life story of Nashville addiction specialist Dr. Loyd, who has been in recovery since 2004. Dr. Loyd is a nationally renowned speaker and expert in public health policy around addiction and addiction treatment. He is the former medical director and assistant commissioner for Substance Abuse Services with the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.


“This is the number one health problem in the United States.,” Dr. Loyd said. “If you don’t have time for the number one health problem in the United States, what do you have time for?”


Loyd stressed that more focus needs to be on those who have recovered from substance use disorder, and not just the dramatic downside, as portrayed in the series Dopesick, which was based on his life. 


“There are more people living in active recovery in the United States right now than there are living active addiction, but you don’t know it because of anonymity and stigma. So, I went ahead with telling my story and that story is on a Hulu series, with 22 million people having seen it…I’ve been in recovery, if I make it, until July 8, for 20 years.”


Other speakers included leaders in recovery, law enforcement and parents who have suffered the loss of children and grandchildren and Jeffrey Reynolds, PhD, President and CEO, Family and Children’s Association; Steve Chassman, LCSW, CASAC, Executive Director of Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence; Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New York Division; Mark Murray, Narcotics Bureau Chief for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office; Anthony Rizzuto, MSW, Director of Provider Relations at Seafield Center; Kurt Hall, Director of Operations at Hope Ministries; Dr Edmond Hakimi, LIRA Board President; and Corinne Kaufman, a grandmother from Glen Cove, lost her granddaughter Paige to a fentanyl-laced pill in 2023. 


“There is healing in trying to save others from this sad fate,” Kaufman said. “I hope today launches and refreshes our awareness of fentanyl poisoning and how it is reaching our communities and stealing our lives.”


Also attending the program were Larry and Eileen Lamendola, whose daughter Lisa died from a fentanyl poisoning in 2019; Lori Carbonaro, whose son Nicholas died in 2014; Paulette Phillippe, whose grandson Gabriel died in 2010 at the age of 15; Carole Trottere, whose son Alex died in 2018 and many others.


Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division stated:


“According to the CDC, the leading cause of death among Americans ages 18 to 45 is drug overdoses and poisonings. It’s more than car accidents, more than gun violence and more than suicides. In fact, 112,323 Americans died from drug overdoses and poisonings in a 12-month period ending in June of 2023. Fentanyl is killing Americans at catastrophic and record rates and was responsible for 70% of those deaths. What we say in the DEA is that this is no longer a war on drugs. This is a fight to save lives. Every single day our top mission priority is to defeat the two most dominant cartels, the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels who are responsible for mass producing the vast majority of fentanyl powder and pills that’s flowing into the United States at record rates and killing Americans. But we are having an impact, and we will continue this fight for each and every one of you and for your loved ones and for the future generations to come.”


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