SIUH CEO and doctors weigh in on topics for SI Health Expo

Staten Island Health and Wellness Expo set for Sept. 26


From the left, Bob Bentson, Health & Wellness Expo Ambassador; Barrington A. Burke-Green, VP business development Visiting Nurse Association of Staten Island; Staten Island University Hospital President and CEO Anthony Ferreri and Chris Williams, optician and owner of Willams Eyewear in Westerleigh. (Staten Island Advance/Tracey Porpora)

Tracey Porpora/Staten Island Advance By Tracey Porpora/Staten Island Advance
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on September 12, 2013 at 6:26 PM, updated September 12, 2013 at 6:51 PM

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- With the troubling distinction of being the borough with the highest rate of fatalities caused by drug overdoses, it's not surprising that one of the major themes of this year's Staten Island Health and Wellness Expo is substance abuse.

"There's a lot of access to prescription drugs here. Opiates are the highest prescribed drugs on Staten Island," said Staten Island University Hospital President and CEO Anthony Ferreri. "Deaths of young people from overdosing is higher than automobile accidents and murder put together (on Staten Island)."

Substance abuse is among an array of topics -- from childhood obesity and autism to health issues suffered by Hurricane Sandy survivors -- that this year's Staten Island Health and Wellness Expo will address on Sept. 26 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield.

The fifth annual expo -- an all-day, free event -- includes health screenings and will offer flu shots to all attendees.

At a press conference announcing the event on Thursday at the Ocean Breeze campus of University Hospital, Ferrari quoted Dr. Thomas Farley, city Health commissioner. "The national epidemic has not spared New York City, and the hardest-hit borough by far is Staten Island," wrote Farley in a recent Advance article.

From 2005 to 2011, Staten Island saw a 261 percent increase in overdose deaths from prescription opiates, ending with a rate four times higher than Manhattan, Queens or Brooklyn, he said. Of the 220 city residents who died in 2011 from a prescription painkiller overdose, 40 were Staten Islanders, he added.

"The opiate situation on Staten Island has been described as an epidemic," said Dr. Hugh B. Cummings, clinical director of addiction services for University Hospital. "There also is emerging evidence that other substances, such as ecstasy and molly, are being used, and heroin is a drug that is making its headway back on the scene."

The "epidemic" has been getting much attention from physicians over the last year.

"Over the last 12 months there has been an emphasis placed on the (substance abuse) problem on Staten Island," said Dr. Joseph McGinn, director of the Heart Institute of Staten Island, and chairman of surgery and director of Cardiothoracic surgery at University Hospital. "All doctors see this regularly. I take care of patients every day who are addicted to prescription medication."

Another topic to be addressed at the Expo are Hurricane Sandy related illnesses, including respiratory problems and post traumatic stress disorder.

"When people are put through traumatic situations such as this, depression, anxiety and other psychiatric illnesses can be exacerbated," said Dr. Theodore Strange, associate chairman of medicine and vice president of medical operations for University Hospital.

Among other topics to be addressed at the Expo are: "What to do when you are bullied, and Zumba fitness for kids;" "Manage long-term care," "The seven secrets to losing all the belly fat you want in 10 weeks or less;" "Career opportunities in the health services arena; "Autism Spectrum Disorder -- What's new, what's relevant, what's next?;" and "Minimally invasive, maximally effective: why the McGinn Technique saves more than just lives."

The event, which will include the 2013 Staten Island Health Hero Awards, is being presented by Councilman James Oddo, Staten Island University Hospital and Staten Island Heart Institute.

A full list of topics and schedule of events can be viewed at: http://sihealthwish.com.

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