Detective Anthony Guzzello has worked for the Port Washington Police Department for more than 28 years and has seen a number of illicit drugs rise and fall.
“You have your peaks and valleys with all different kinds of drugs,” he said. “But this is the worst I’ve ever seen.”
He was referring to the opioid crisis that has swept the country, and Long Island has not been spared.
Recently, local officials have taken a more proactive approach to the problem. Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan (I-Syosset) made several proposals to stem the opioid crisis. Other legislators have proposed covering opioids under the social host law. Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth suggested training all town employees in administering Narcan, a lifesaving drug that can revive someone who has overdosed.
But the Port Washington police wanted to be proactive in combating the problem. Like the county police, the force began carrying Narcan several years ago. Guzzello said that since the Port Washington police began carrying Narcan, they have revived residents who have overdosed.
As the department’s school resource officer, Guzzello has helped take the department’s knowledge of Narcan to the schools after the school approached him about instructing the students. For over a year, Lt. Kevin McCarroll has been teaching a select group of seniors over the age of 18 at Paul D. Schreiber High School how to administer the drug during health classes.
He also encourages teenagers to call the police if they are in a situation where a friend overdoses.
“The first and utmost priority is safety, not getting people in trouble for calling it in,” he said. “If someone is in that situation, they should not hesitate to call. We’re there to help, not to hurt.”
But education is not restricted to high school students. The Port police, in cooperation with Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) have sponsored Narcan training sessions for local residents.
“At first, some people thought that it wasn’t necessary,” said DeRiggi-Whitton, who has been trained in administering Narcan herself. “But since then, everyone has been on board.”
Beyond Narcan training, Guzzello recommended that parents educate themselves as much as possible on the effects of the drugs and street names. He recommended the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a good source of information online.
He also said that parents should communicate with their children.
“When is the last time the family had dinner together? As the kids get older, sometimes there is less and less communication,” he said. “It is all about talking with them and knowing your children.”