Blakeman’s admin sitting on opioid settlement funds: Minority leaders

Blakeman’s admin sitting on opioid settlement funds: Minority leaders
Nassau County Minority leaders, along with Corinne Kaufman, prepare to file the “Families Against Fentanyl Act." Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton holds a photo of Paige Gibbons. (Photo by Taylor Herzlich)

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s administration has spent less than $202,000 of more than $92.5 million in proceeds to the county from opioid settlement funds, according to Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton.

DeRiggi-Whitton, a frequent critic of Blakeman’s failure to spend proceeds from opioid settlement funds, filed the “Families Against Fentanyl Act” Monday along with a number of fellow legislators.  It is a resolution requiring the inclusion of of fentanyl-detecting strips in Narcan kits distributed by Nassau County agencies.

Nassau had received a total of $92,522,907 from settlements with opioid drug manufacturers, distributors and sellers as of Feb. 22, according to the Minority Caucus. Of those proceeds, $6,761,703 had been encumbered, but only $201,833 had been spent to date, based on recent internal reports.

DeRiggi-Whitton said the $92 million set aside from opioid settlements cannot be used for anything other than opioid treatment, recovery and prevention sources, meaning that the Nassau County administration is just sitting on the funding. Most of the money has been sitting in an unused bank account, according to DeRiggi-Whitton.

“No community has been spared from the scourge of the opioid crisis, and the $92.5 million that Nassau County has received could make a tremendous impact upon the lives of those who are in the grips of addiction,” said DeRiggi-Whitton. “Considering the wave of devastation that we have experienced and the promises that have been made, it is infuriating to know that … just a sliver of these funds have actually been spent on life-saving initiatives.”

In September 2022, Blakeman said the county planned on spending $15 million annually for four years on drug prevention, education and treatment.

DeRiggi-Whitton, who was joined by six fellow Nassau County lawmakers and members of the Minority Caucus at a press conference Monday, said she originally asked for just $10,000 from the opioid settlement funds to go toward the Narcan kits.

“The Minority’s legislative proposal to include fentanyl testing strips in Narcan kits — which should have been considered and voted on when we first proposed it two years ago — is a proven, low-cost approach,” said Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé (D-Freeport).

Fentanyl is an incredibly potent synthetic opioid. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, roughly the amount of 10 grains of salt, is enough to cause a fatal overdose, said DeRiggi-Whitton.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than 78.4 million fentanyl-laced pills last year alone.

Overdose death rates have remained high since the pandemic as states struggle with the opioid-fentanyl epidemic.

DeRiggi-Whitton criticized Nassau County spending, specifically targeting Nassau County lawmakers’ recent approval of $10 million to be spent on the county’s 125th anniversary celebration. “The $10 million for the 125th anniversary went out like that, and we’re only at $7 million for this opioid funding that … cannot be used for anything else,” said DeRiggi-Whitton.

“Even Suffolk has done a much better job than we have at distributing [the funds],” said DeRiggi-Whitton. While Nassau County distributes opioid funds on a reimbursement basis, Suffolk County operates on a grant model.

The grandmother of one fentanyl victim attended Monday’s session of the Nassau Legislature.

Paige Gibbons, 19, of Pittsford, N.Y., died on Nov. 20, 2022 from accidental fentanyl poisoning after consuming what she believed was a Percocet pill during a sleepover with friends. The pill in actuality was 100% fentanyl. 

Her family’s story has been shared around the country and was notably featured in a commercial sponsored by the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports that aired during the Super Bowl.

Corinne Kaufman, Gibbons’ grandmother, filed the “Families Against Fentanyl Act” alongside the Nassau County legislators. Kaufman implored Blakeman to direct the opioid settlement funds toward fentanyl and opioid awareness and programming.

“The [fentanyl] strips cost about a dollar. It’s important to have them in every Narcan kit and make them available to all,” said Kaufman. “It might have saved Paige’s life.”

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here