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Schumer's Invitation Will Draw Even More National Attention To Critical Issue: The Opioid Crisis

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that he is bringing Stephanie Keegan, a New Yorker, and mother of a veteran who overdosed on heroin while waiting to be seen at his local VA Hospital, to the State of the Union as his guest. Schumer has invited Ms. Keegan in order to draw more national attention to an issue that is very important to them both: preventing and treating those addicted to opioids. Earlier this month, Schumer joined Keegan in Westchester to bring attention to a CDC report that says life expectancy in the United States has fallen for the second year in a row, the first time it has done so in more than 50 years. Researchers suggest the decline is in part due to the opioid epidemic. In 2016, the rate of drug overdose deaths across the country was 21 percent higher than the rate in 2015. With the looming budget deal in Congress, Schumer said now is the time to push for increased federal funding to better support the federal agencies that are fighting on the front lines of this crisis, like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and are providing the prevention, treatment and recovery service programs that communities throughout New York desperately need.

"I'm very pleased to announce that Ms. Stephanie Keegan, Daniel’s mother, will be my guest at President Trump's State of the Union Address, which will draw much-needed national attention to an issue near and dear to our hearts:  beating back the opioid scourge and treating those afflicted by addiction, including our vets,” said Senator Schumer. “Ms. Keegan’s trip to Washington is just one example of her great strength in the face of the tragic loss of her son Daniel, and I hope that together we can rally support for additional grant funds in New York that could help localities, like Staten Island, beat back the opioid epidemic.”

According to a report released by the National Center for Health Statistics titled, “Mortality in the United States,” life expectancy in the United States has fallen for the second year in a row. The last time U.S. life expectancy dropped for two years in a row was in the 1960s. According to the report, U.S. life expectancy fell from 78.7 in 2015 to 78.6 in 2016; this follows a drop from 78.9 in 2014.

Researchers suggest the opioid epidemic has contributed to the drop in life expectancy. A separate report conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics titled, “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States,” says that the rate of drug overdose deaths in 2016 was 21 percent higher than the rate in 2015. Specifically, in 2016 there were more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States, and more than 42,200 of them were attributed to opioids; in 2015 more than 52,400 deaths were attributed to overdoses, and 33,000 of them involved opioids. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, doubled between 2015 to 2016, from 3.1 to 6.2 per 100,000.

Schumer said that New York City has not been spared by the drug abuse epidemic. According to the NYC Department of Health, there was a total of 1,374 unintentional drug overdose deaths in all of New York City in 2016, compared to 937 unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2015—an increase of 437. Approximately four fatal drug overdoses occurred each day in New York City in 2016.

Moreover, Schumer said that, in New York, the drug epidemic on Staten Island has been particularly disheartening. In 2016, there were 116 unintentional overdoses on Staten Island; the borough had the highest rate per capita in all of New York City.  In 2015, there were 69 unintentional drug overdose deaths on Staten Island. Schumer said those numbers could have been higher if not for the use of the life-saving antidote, naloxone.

Schumer said congress must increase funds to combat opioid addiction in New York State. Specifically, Schumer pointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants provided under the 21st Century CURES Act. These grants are provided to each state to help combat the opioid crisis. The pot of funding is administered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and supports prevention, treatment, and recovery service programs.

In Fiscal Year 2017, $485 million in Opioid Crisis Grants were awarded to states across the country. Of that, New York State received $25 million. Schumer said that, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the economic cost of the opioid epidemic was $504 billion in 2015.

Schumer today said, as Senate Minority Leader, he will do everything in his power to fight for an increase in opioid crisis grant funds for New York State. Schumer said that New York City, including Staten Island in particular, depends on the upcoming budget deal to beat back its opioid scourge and that organizations on Staten Island could use the funds for prevention and treatment programs throughout the borough.