Talking about the human costs of the opioid epidemic, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino pointed to the death of a 22-year-old daughter of a friend as a very personal reason for him to launch a new initiative to fight the highly-addictive pain killers.
Astorino kicked off the initiative on Wednesday with a press conference at the Westchester County Center. He was joined by Dr. Mark Herceg, commissioner of Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health, Dr. Sherlita Amler, commissioner of Westchester County Department of Health and George Longworth, commissioner of Westchester County Department of Public Safety.
Astorino said that the initiative called – Project WORTHY — Westchester Opioid Response Teams Helping You – would bring together experts and resources from the fields of health, mental health and law enforcement. Their role is to provide expertise in their respective fields in response to specific calls for help, and to conduct informational forums at schools, churches, temples, mosques, municipal meetings, civic associations, businesses and other groups.
“Westchester County, like communities all across the country, is facing a lethal enemy that grows deadlier by the day,” said Astorino. “Whether you live in a city, town, village or hamlet, in the northernmost stretches of the county, the Sound Shore or along the Hudson River, the opioid epidemic affects all of us. The work ahead will be tough, because the enemy is strong. But working together, we can and will make a difference. Opioid addiction can be stopped. We will continue to fight, and Project WORTHY can make us more effective.”
Keynote speaker at the event was Dennis Romero, the regional administrator with the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), who spoke on the “changing face of addiction.”