Channeling grief into unwavering advocacy

Channeling grief into unwavering advocacy
Corrine Kaufman (left) and County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton after Kaufman addressed the Legislature, urging the Majority Leader to call a bill that would require fentanyl test strips to be included in all Narcan kits distributed by Nassau County. (Photo by Peter M. Budraitis)

In November, Corinne Kaufman lost her beautiful granddaughter Paige Gibbons to an accidental fentanyl overdose just four days after her 19th birthday.

According to Gibbon’s grandmother, Gibbons and her two friends were not drug addicts. They bought what they thought were Percocet to relax them. Gibbons and one of her friends took a small nibble out of a tablet. Gibbons died. Her friend endured a prolonged stay in intensive care where she suffered two strokes.

“My granddaughter Paige was all about life!” Kaufman said. “This demon drug knows no boundaries. it is taking people from all walks of life.”

Most of the fentanyl that is being sold in the United States is mass-produced in Mexico using chemicals primarily from China before being pressed into pills or mixed with other counterfeit pills made to look like Xanax, Adderall or oxycodone.

Kaufman has channeled some of her grief into launching “Families Against Fentanyl,” which advocates for getting Narcan opiate overdose reversal kits into middle and high school nurses’ offices and making fentanyl test strips readily available.

Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) and fellow Legislative Minority member Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) and Debra Mulé (D-Freeport) introduced Nassau County’s “Families Against Fentanyl” law. The measure, which was first filed in May 2022, would require Nassau to include fentanyl-detecting test strips in every Naracn kit it distributes for the Department of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Developmental Disabilities to makes strips available to residents upon request.

Unfortunately, the Legislative Majority has not yet called a hearing on the bill.

“This terrible scourge is claiming the lives of far too many people – many of whom are not drug addicts,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “We need to keep fentanyl away from our children and out of the country as much as possible, and most certainly do something as simple and inexpensively as making fentanyl test strips available to all youths and young adults.”

“Perhaps Paige would still be alive today had fentanyl test strips been available,” Kaufman said. “Something as simple as making fentanyl test strips widely available can save countless lives. I strongly encourage the Legislative Majority to schedule a public hearing and for County Executive Bruce Blakeman to join us in supporting this life-saving measure.”

This March, the Nassau County Legislature recognized Kaufman as a Women’s History Month Trailblazer for her advocacy work in the fight to prevent fentanyl overdoses and deaths on Long Island.

If you or a loved one are in need of assistance with substance abuse or addition of any kinds, contact the Nassau County Office of Mental health, Chemical Dependency and Developmental Disabilities Services at (516) 227-7057.

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