NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y.– In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, Northwell Health held a system-wide event to provide resources to help prevent future overdoses, as well as recognizing those whose lives have already been cut short by substance use.
The effort included the staffing of tables at 15 Northwell facilities where patients, employees and members of the public could find information about the wide range of services and programs offered by the health system for people struggling with a substance use issue and for concerned relatives, friends and members of the community.
People in attendance could be trained in the use of naloxone, a medication that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose; after training, they could receive a rescue kit containing the medicine. Information was also available on how to access addiction care provided by Northwell and other providers in the community, as well as how to connect with Northwell’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EAP), a free and confidential counseling service available to the health system’s 76,000 employees and family members.
“Awareness and understanding are some of the most powerful tools we have in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” said Sandeep Kapoor, MD, assistant vice president of addiction services for Northwell’s emergency medicine service line. “Events like these provide members of our community with the tools they need to protect themselves and their loved ones. And by framing substance use as a medical issue like any other, we help lift the stigma that can close people off from seeking help.”
Drug overdose deaths in the United States increased by nearly 30% in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reaching a record level of more than 93,000. Experts point to the extreme stress caused by the pandemic as a likely cause, along with increased difficulty in accessing treatment.
“Our employees are not immune to this crisis and neither are their families,” said Patricia Flynn, assistant vice president of employee wellness at Northwell. “We are committed to providing them the support they need to stay healthy, physically, emotionally and mentally.”
“Substance misuse and addiction are profound threats to the health of our community, and we can’t allow the focus on COVID-19 to deflect us from our work to prevent and treat their effects,” said Bruce Goldman, LCSW, senior director of behavioral health at Northwell and head of substance abuse services at Zucker Hillside Hospital, a Northwell behavioral health facility. “Even in the midst of the pandemic, substance use disorders remain one of the primary drivers of misery. We want our patients and our workforce to understand that no matter what their needs, help is available at Northwell.”