Source: Doug88888/Flickr

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Despite the sharp rise in heroin abuse and the continuing scourge of prescription painkiller addiction among a broad demographic, New York State is not properly equipped to address the opiate addiction crisis, says Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said the budget for the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has remained “flat” for several years and, remarkably, there is no funding directly related to opiate abuse in the 2014-1015 executive budget. “Although there is reinvestment in this budget, there are little details how it will be distributed or what kind of services it will provide,” he said.

While New York State has made major strides in the battle against prescription drug abuse, a shift from prescription opioid to heroin abuse has resulted in a rise of treatment admissions across the state, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. The Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse is asking for $5 million to expand access to and capacity for treatment of opiate abuse, another $5 million to expand school-based prevention programs, and $5 million to expand community-based detoxification services.

A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Cymbrowitz (A.8591) would establish the Community Chemical Dependency Services Expansion Program, which would take advantage of savings that the state realizes as behavioral health services transition into managed care and the utilization of medically managed detoxification services declines. The program would distribute these funds to community based providers.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz also co-sponsored legislation (A.8637) to increase the availability of Naloxone, sometimes referred to as the drug overdose antidote. When administered in a timely fashion, Naloxone counteracts the life threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system caused by an opioid or heroin overdose.

In 2005, the state authorized non-medical persons to administer Naloxone to an individual in order to prevent an opioid or heroin overdose from becoming fatal. Currently, parents and family members of addicts are being turned away from Naloxone training programs or are attending the programs and not receiving Naloxone due to the shortage of prescribers participating in such programs. “Due to the increase of opioid abuse, expanded access to Naloxone has become necessary priority to save lives,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

In Nassau County, EMTs administer Naloxone through their police department’s ambulance services and in Suffolk County the state provided first responders with Naloxone. “Expanding upon the success of existing programs, more lives could be saved if Naloxone were available to addicts, their families and other people likely to be in a position to assist a person at risk of an opioid related overdose,” he said.

“Under this legislation, one prescriber would be able to issue a non-patient specific order to numerous programs, allowing for increased access. This legislation will give the person who is likely to discover an overdose victim the ability to save their life, a life that could otherwise be lost if the victim has to wait for the EMT to arrive,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

In testimony by the NYS Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers during a recent budget hearing in Albany, executive director John Coppola noted that overdose deaths related to prescription painkillers increased 233% between 2000 and 2012, while heroin-related overdose deaths also increased 84% between 2010 and 2012 in NYC after four years on the decline, according to a NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene report.

“The number of overdose deaths in New York State now exceeds motor vehicle related deaths. This staggering loss of life demands bold leadership and action from New York’s elected officials,” Coppola said.

The 2012-2013 State Fiscal Year Enacted Budget established the prescription pain medication awareness program. Another major initiative to help New York protect its citizens from the consequences of prescription drug abuse is the Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing Act, known as I-STOP, enacted in 2012. “This seminal legislation tracks controlled substance prescribing, prevents doctor shopping and weeds out unscrupulous doctors. One unfortunate side effect of successfully restricting street access to these controlled substances is that addicts are turning to other drugs, such as heroin,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

“Without treatment readily available, the public health costs will be severe for New York State — and the human toll even more so,” he said.

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  • Nick the Rat

    Drugs have to become a medical issue and not a law enforcement issue. Until that day comes, this money will be wasted.