Drew Scott, Former Anchorman, to Moderate Forum on Opioid Addiction

Drew Scott with his twin granddaughters, Hallie Rae Ulrich, left, and Ellison Ulrich, who turned 22 on Aug. 30, about a week before Hallie Rae's fatal overdose. Photos Courtesy of Drew Scott

Drew Scott, the former "News 12 Long Island" anchor, is turning his family's loss amid the deadly opioid crisis into an effort to try to "save another life." 

Mr. Scott's granddaughter Hallie Rae Ulrich died of an overdose in East Hampton on Sept. 7. The 22-year-old, a budding artist who graduated from Pierson High School in Sag Harbor in 2013, was found on the side of the road near Cedar Point Park. Her boyfriend, Michael Goericke, 28, overdosed at his mother's house in Flanders the next day and died at the hospital. 

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman got in touch with Mr. Scott, who covered Mr. Schneiderman's career as a county legislator, and invited him to join a group he was putting together in an attempt to battle opioid addiction on the East End. 

The newly organized Southampton Town Opioid Addiction Task Force will present an aptly named forum, "It Hits Home," on Nov. 15 in Hampton Bays, and Mr. Scott will help moderate it with Mr. Schneiderman. Medical, mental health, education, and law enforcement authorities will come together to discuss the epidemic. Family members who have been involved in opioid addiction will speak about how they handled it. The task force, however, also wants a dialogue with the audience, as the group will look to residents as it searches for solutions to the crisis.  

"I'm not ashamed to tell people this happened to me, and if this happened to me this could happen to anybody," Mr. Scott said by phone on Monday. The stigma attached to opioid addiction is part of the problem. "If it's cancer, heart disease — no one is afraid to step forward and say, 'Yes, it affected my family.' " Opioid addiction should be no different. 

The figures are staggering. More than 500 people died last year in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Mr. Scott said. Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki told the task force at a recent meeting that there were five deaths related to overdoses in the town in 2016. So far this year, there have been 17. "And the year is not over yet," Mr. Scott said. "Our jaws dropped." 

“This is a national crisis that has hit home,” said Mr. Schneiderman, co-chairman of the Opioid Addiction Task Force. “Our community is coming together in an effort to prevent further tragedies.”

"This is a huge battle we've got to wage," said Mr. Scott, one he is all too familiar with. His granddaughter, who had grown up with her twin sister, Ellison, in his and his wife's home in Westhampton, had struggled with heroin addiction for two years. Her boyfriend "gradually introduced her to heroin." She went to rehab twice. In July, she graduated from the drug court run in Southampton Town.

It seemed she had kicked her habit, but Mr. Scott warned his granddaughter not to hang out with people who would lead her astray. The last thing she said to him was, "I'm not stupid." 

"It just seems so awful that so many of these kids, so many of them — they’re not criminals. They’re not junkies. They’re just kids that get caught up in something that is way bigger than them." 

Just weeks before Ms. Ulrich's death, Mr. Scott decided to retire. He has the time now to devote to the task force and to the effort to ensure that this kind of tragedy strikes no other family. "By the fickle finger of fate," he said. 

The forum on Nov. 15 will be held in the auditorium at Hampton Bays High School. Young people are being encouraged to attend, and participating school districts are offering volunteer hours. 

The task force is developing an action plan that it hopes to present to the Southampton Town Board by June 1. 

Hallie Rae Ulrich struggled with opioid addiction for two years, her grandfather said.
Hallie Rae was an accomplished artist. She is seen here at the Behind the Fence Gallery in Southampton last summer at work on a piece recently sold to a honey farm in California.