Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Leg. Joshua Lafazan and various county officials and legislators recently unveiled the latest tool in battling opiate addiction in the county, a free cell phone app designed to provide a wide range of resources and help.
The county unveiled the Nassau C.A.R.E.S. app, an acronym standing for “Connect, Access, Resources, Education and Support,” five letters that collectively can help change and save lives.
The app, with the words “need assistance now” on the home page, can be accessed through cell phones, in addition to a counselling line or hotline available by dialing 516-227-TALK (8255).
The app also includes information about Narcan training sessions, which can be so crucial in saving lives.
County Executive Curran unveiled the app, standing in front of a large screen showcasing a potentially life-saving link for those facing drug addiction and many other potential problems.
“It’s a free app for both Apple and Android that literally puts all the information you need for addiction services, mental health help, hotlines including runaway and gambling, at your fingertips,” County Executive Curran said.
She added that information and communication are essential ingredients in efforts to help those in need, and the smart phone is a quick way to link people with around-the-clock resources.
The app also connects people with other human beings who can provide counseling, support and referrals to others as well as allows for searches by zip code.
“I am a firm believer in the idea that knowledge is power,” Curran said. “These resources are out there. This app combines all of these resources in one place.”
Lafazan called the app a “comprehensive and enduring victory for Nassau’s residents” unanimously passed by the legislature in 2018 and signed into law by Curran.
“Information can be life-saving,” Lafazan said. “All too often citizens who find themselves in the throes of addiction are unable to ask for help, afraid to disclose the nature of the issue or do not know where it’s safe to turn.”
People can log on anonymously, using the cell phone as a kind of lifeline to find everything from clinics to drug abuse support and other assistance..
“In a digital world, asking for help should be simple, immediate and anonymous,” Lafazan added. “This is exactly what Nassau C.A.R.E.S. does.”
He said this app should “revolutionize how individuals can obtain information” and improve on Googling to find places, hours and locations.
“Gone are the days of not knowing who you can call at 3 in the morning,” Lafazan said of those who download this free app. “With Nassau C.A.R.E.S., any individual, family or friend can get help around the clock.”
Nassau County Police Department Commissioner Patrick Ryder called technology a crucial tool in any effort to battle addiction and save lives.
The county through Operation Natalie, he said, is already mapping overdoses to target communities that are hardest hit.
“This app is going to give our victims a place to go, a one-stop shop they can go to get answers for recovery and to find someone to talk to,” Ryder said.
County Executive Curran said the app, a collaboration between many agencies and with input from outside government, is designed to be simple.
“It is easy to navigate. It is easy to use,” she said. “I firmly believe it will improve and save lives in Nassau County.”
Jeffrey Reynolds, who leads the Family and Children’s Association, said smart phones have become a key link between people and opiates. It’s important that they be used as a link to help as well.
“The smart phone for many young people and adults alike is the gateway to anything under the sun. It’s also a gateway for a lot of people using substances,” he said. “Drug deals take place via cell phone. It’s about time we began to use this for something that’s good, that helps people find the help they need.”
He said it currently can be far too difficult to obtain help in a system where barriers to treatment are all too common.
“You need to call a phone line, hope that a center’s open, hope your insurance will pay for it, make an appointment, find someone to drive you there, show up,” Reynolds said. “We make it next to impossible. Until we make it easier to get help than it is to get heroin, we won’t beat that problem. Today, we took a big step forward.”
Leg. Laura Schafer said the cell phone is a natural way to connect with those in need– and an app is an important way of harnessing available help.
“It’s a resource we all go to for so many things. Why not when we have an issue or a problem?” she said. “I know it’s going to help many people, help those who are suffering and lead them to a road to recovery.”
Leg. Ellen Birnbaum said a smart app is important in reaching people, including young people particularly vulnerable to opiates and overdoses and reliant on cell phones.
“What better way in the 21st century to reach people, especially young people, than on their smart phone? Everybody has it. With just your fingertips, you can seek help very easily now,” she said. “You can’t just talk about it. You have to do something.”
In addition to around-the-clock help and a list of organizations and services, the app provides other informaton regarding treatment.
“There are resources in case of overdoses, ways to spot signs of addiction, Narcan training in September. You can find the (Narcan) trainings available, free and open to the public,” Lafazan said. “Many more Narcan trainings will be added.”
He said that letting people know about the app itself is important: The information only helps those who use it.
“It will only be effective if people download it on their smart phones,” he said. “Information can save a life and it may be someone you love.”
Teri Kroll, whose son Timothy died of an overdose a decade ago and after whose son legislation leading to the hotline and app is named, knows the pain of loss and being unable to find support.
“I didn’t know where to find help, where to get help,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see that help is at your fingertips. You can push a button and get someone to help.”
She said she knew of few if any options other than the emergency room when her son struggled with addiction - and that today the information highway can help in the journey to recovery.
“I know what it’s like to wait two weeks for an appointment. To find out treatment isn’t covered,” she said. “To wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning, have my son in pain and have nowhere to go. All I knew was to go to the emergency room.”
Kroll believes connecting people with services is a crucial link in a life-saving chain and that this app may lead to less loss of life.
“We have to get information out to people. It has to be at your fingertips,” she said. “I had no idea what was available to my son. Nobody counseled us. Knowing my son is looking down on us, I thank you very much for this app. I tried it myself. And at my age, I can even do it.”