Witness testimony continued in Touro College’s law school auditorium throughout week five of the New York State opioid trial, as the jury heard from local first responders and officials who shared their intimate knowledge about how the opioid epidemic affected Long Island’s Suffolk and Nassau Counties.
Among many witnesses examined during week five, expert testimony came from Nassau County Assistant Police Chief Chris Ferro and Jennifer Culp, who is the intergovernmental coordinator for the Suffolk Department of Health Services.
Under direct examination by Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Jayne Conroy, who is co-lead of the New York opioid trial representing New York’s Suffolk County, Culp shared valuable insight about how the opioid epidemic took a major mental toll on first responders:
“We were hearing from the community, from the first responders, they were responding and it was their neighbors, it was people they knew, it was someone maybe they went to high school with or someone who lives down the street. It was someone’s child.”
According to Culp, Suffolk first responders grew “embittered” as they often returned to the same addresses multiple times to help the same opioid victims who overdosed more than once. Culp described how first responders endured “compassion fatigue,” leading the county to develop an educational program that taught first responders about the complexity of addiction.
In addition, Culp testified about how county officials created a number of different programs to combat the scourge of the local opioid crisis, including the Diagnostic Assessment and Stabilization Hub (DASH) — a 24-hour crisis center for overdoses and fast treatment.
The county also exhausted resources creating prevention programs and retraining doctors and dentists on how to prescribe opioids and identify signs of abuse. Widespread Narcan training was also required for first-responders.
Referring to the sheer volume of opioid overdoses, Nassau Assistant Police Chief Ferro testified that it “shocked my conscience. It was almost like pushing sand against the surf.” Ferro was instrumental in creating the Long Island Heroin Task Force, which sought to curb the effects of the opioid epidemic.
About the current state of the opioid epidemic, Ferro noted poignantly: “It hasn’t stopped.”
During week five, three major drug distribution companies — Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson — settled with New York State for a combined sum of $1.1 billion, which is part of a proposed $26 billion national settlement with manufacturers and distributors of opioids.
Defendants remaining in the trial are manufacturers Allergan, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Endo International and distributor Anda.
Week Five Coverage:
Top national and regional media placements from the past week presented in reverse chronological order.
- LI Herald
- Opioid trial testimony: Suffolk had to develop a ‘compassion fatigue’ education program first responders
- Suffolk lawmakers accept up to $106M in opioid settlements
- Nassau police official: The number of opioid overdoses ‘shocked my conscience’
- Times Standard
- Bloomberg Law
- Huntington Now
- NY Daily News
- Funds to fight the scourge: Opioid settlement dollars must go toward saving lives from addiction and overdose and preventing people from getting hooked
- Legal Reader