Nassau County Legislator Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale) proposed the first law of its kind in the country that would require law enforcement to notify school officials when an arrest is made for heroin possession and/or sale. It was unanimously approved by the Nassau County Legislature and signed into law on December 22, 2008 by County Executive Tom Suozzi. This bill will combat the growing problem of teenage heroin addiction in the suburbs by improving communication between police and school officials. Legislator Mejias’ titled his legislation the “Natalie Ciappa Law” after an 18-year-old high school student from Massapequa who died of a heroin overdose at a party in June of this year.
“Parents and schools need a head’s up on heroin use before it’s too late,” said Mejias. “The initial signs of heroin use are not easily detectable. This law gives everyone a fighting chance to combat this insidious epidemic. Schools notify parents when a child in their district has head lice; the county should notify schools about possible heroin use and sales in their districts.”
Legislator Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), who sits on the County Legislature’s Health and Social Services Committee and a strong supporter of the bill, said, “This bill is not just a directive to just schools, the use of Heroin is a total community issue and we need the cooperation from every entity within the community to stop this deadly increase in use. The reason I voted for this bill is to raise public awareness. We cannot bury our heads in the sand.”
Legislator Mejias’ law will go into effect today and requires police to notify the school district about anyone arrested in connection with heroin possession within that specific school district’s boundaries or the arrest of a student from that district anywhere in the county. Private school principals would also be notified of an arrest of one of their students. Additionally, within the next 90 days, in compliance with the Natalie Ciappa Law, the police department will establish and implement a Nassau Drug Mapping Index (NDMI) website available to the public that will map arrests for possession and sale of heroin and include the nature and class of the arrest, the alleged offender’s age and the date, time and location of the arrest.
Overall heroin related arrests in Nassau County have increased 50% since 2002. According to the District Attorney’s office, since 2007 there have been 37 suspected heroin overdoses in Nassau County and the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse hospital admissions for opiate overdoses are up all across Long Island. Adding to the increase use of heroin among suburban teens is that it is cheaper than ever before—a bundle that had cost $150 in 2006 costs an average of $90 and, in some areas it’s as low as $70 today. The National Drug Intelligence Center lists heroin and cocaine as the most serious drug threat in the New York area. Additionally, they say that heroin use among high school students is a particular problem with an alarming number of high school seniors in the United States using the drug at least once in their lifetime.
Legislator Mejias added, “Doreen and Victor Ciappa have taken an unspeakable tragedy - the loss of their beautiful daughter Natalie - to the public forefront to prevent their experience from happening to any other family. They should be commended for their efforts and their bravery.”