My Latest Op-ed in The Messenger PapersPosted on March 24, 2023
As a candidate for the Suffolk County Legislature, I vow to make protecting our community from the deadly scourge of fentanyl-laced opioids a top priority. The fight against drugs and addiction is a multifaceted battle. We must not only work to prosecute drug dealers and intercept the influx of drugs into our communities, but also provide meaningful support and treatment options for those struggling with addiction. As a society, we cannot turn a blind eye to this crisis and leave our most vulnerable citizens to suffer in silence.
Join me in this fight and read my latest op-ed in The Messenger Papers. Together, we can make a difference and save lives.
Bad Bail Laws and Broken Borders Fuel the Deadly Rise of Fentanyl
By Anthony M. Figliola
Long Island is in the throes of a violent war, with thousands having lost their lives to the opioid crisis.
A lethal adversary has surfaced, taking the form of the potent narcotic Fentanyl, which is being imported from China and produced by Mexican drug cartels. These organizations are smuggling the synthetic drug through our open Southern Border, leading to the deaths of 150 Americans every day.
Long Island is in the grips of an escalating crisis of opioid-related fatalities and overdoses, with Fentanyl being the primary culprit. This synthetic opioid, which is a staggering 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is the primary driving force behind this harrowing epidemic.
The deadly potency of Fentanyl, which goes by the street name of Murder 8 and Poison, is such that just 1 kilogram (2 pounds) of the substance could kill up to 500,000 people. The drug is highly addictive, making it a major contributor to the opioid epidemic, and is often mixed with other drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or prescription painkillers, which can be deadly even in small amounts.
In recent years, Fentanyl has become increasingly prevalent on Long Island, with law enforcement officials reporting a surge in fentanyl-related deaths and overdoses. Suffolk County has become the core for overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, surpassing Nassau County, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, based on the most recent data from the New York State Opioid Data Dashboard.
To make matters worse, drug dealers are marketing Fentanyl to Long Island youths using popular cartoon characters such as Hello Kitty, Batman, and Superman. In 2021 alone, 400 people died in Suffolk County from Fentanyl overdoses. The state has been equally battered in this war, with overdose fatalities across the state increasing by over 1,100% between 2010 and 2017. Fentanyl was overwhelmingly responsible for the recent surge in opioid-related deaths, which increased by 116% statewide between 2018 (2,199) and 2021 (4,766).
The opioid crisis on Long Island has devastated communities, strained healthcare systems, law enforcement agencies, and social services, and has been stigmatizing and discriminatory for those struggling with addiction.
But there are those in county government fighting for the voiceless. Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney has taken a bullish stance on this problem by advocating for stronger state laws in prosecuting drug dealers who peddle this death pill. He proposed the state legislature pass a law to classify class B felony drug offenses, such as possession with intent to sell or the sale of narcotics, as a “qualifying offense” for judges to impose bail and detention. While the Democratic-led state legislature has been inept in fixing the New York’s weak bail laws – Tierney’s proposal deserves consideration.
Tierney remains resolute in his efforts to bring drug dealers to justice, as evidenced by his successful prosecution of Vito Frabizio. Frabizio had been released with no bail and was back on the streets, peddling fentanyl-laced opioids to individuals like Frank Ciaro, who tragically lost his life to an overdose. Frabizio ultimately received a sentence of 11 years in prison for his crimes. This underscores the importance of amending the state’s weak bail reform laws to keep dangerous criminals like him off the streets.
There are efforts underway to address the opioid crisis on Long Island, with healthcare providers, community organizations, and law enforcement officials working together to provide education, prevention, and treatment services to those affected by the crisis. These include expanding access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and providing overdose prevention education and distributing naloxone, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.
Our federal officials, including Suffolk’s two congressmen, Nick LaLota and Andrew Garbarino, must ensure that our county has the funding and other resources needed to fight back against this silent war. In addition, Suffolk County must do all it can to support our front-line workers: law enforcement, social workers, non-profits, and healthcare providers, to assist those struggling with addiction.
It is essential that parents become aware of this deadly drug and talk to their children and teenagers about the dangers of opioid addiction. In addition, the county must develop robust education programs, including public service announcements, to raise awareness about the risks associated with fentanyl use.
But the real key will be for the federal government to close the border to these drug pushers, and for the state legislature to pass laws with teeth that hold drug dealers accountable for their role in these deaths.
To learn more about Fentanyl visit: www.dea.gov/fentanylawareness
Anthony M. Figliola is Executive Vice President of Empire Government Strategies, and candidate for Suffolk County Legislature in District 5.