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New Report On Long Island Opioids Epidemic Offers Glimmer Of Hope, But Much Work Remains

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A new report on the opioid crisis finds that it could be costing Long Island's economy billions.

The report, released by the Opioid Crisis Action Plan Task Force, highlights $8 billion a year in medical costs, lost worker productivity and economic losses, CBSN Jennifer McLoagn reported Thursday.

MORE: Read The Report

The epidemic has killed thousands since 2010, but there is a glimmer of hope. Fatal opioid overdoses in Nassau and Suffolk counties combined fell nearly 24 percent last year, due to more treatment access, beefed-up enforcement, anti-drug programs and early intervention in schools as early as kindergarten.

"If we give young people an option, with coping strategies, with communication skills, with self-esteem boosting, they may not have a need for mind- and mood-altering substances," said Steve Chassman of the Long Island Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence. "And, of course, to follow it through, the progression in their intellectual and physical development through 12th grade, these evidence-based prevention models are evidenced based to be effective in preventing substance use. We need to implement it in every school in Nassau and Suffolk and, quite frankly, clearly across the country."

Web Extra: Update From Nassau County's Opioid Task Force:

Nassau officials said that 147 people died as the result of overdoses last year compared to 184 in 2017. The numbers are somewhat encouraging, but there is a long way to go.

"We introduced our 'Too Good For Drugs' program. It's in all 56 school districts this year in Nassau County. It's K through 12, so we started at kindergarten through 12th grade educating them, not just about drugs but about self esteem," Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.

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Once addicted, there is a rippling effect of these drugs on businesses, taxpayers, emergency services and law enforcement. Long Island is losing an estimated $22 million a day due to opioid addiction, McLogan reported.

An estimated 45,450 individuals on Long Island are living with opioid addiction.

McLogan spoke with educators on Thursday about early intervention.

"The whole issue around the opioid crisis heightened our work to bring information earlier and earlier and earlier to kids," Jericho School District Superintendent Henry L. Grishman said.

Jericho is among the districts in Nassau working with wellness counselors and tackling the difficult drug subjects in elementary grades.

"It's very important that we get to the kids younger and younger," Ryder said. "They are our foundation and you start from the bottom up."

According to the report, childhood trauma is the root cause of the opioid epidemic and schools can help spot trouble.

"Adverse childhood experiences have been linked to drug use," Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe said.

The task force recommends some school district staff and community members become certified mental health first aid instructors.

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