SCHUMER LAUNCHES MAJOR EFFORT TO FIGHT DRUG CRISIS IN WESTCHESTER COUNTY; SENATOR SAYS CRISIS IS SO GREAT, CONGRESS MUST VOTE ON SENATE BILL NEXT WEEK; FUNDS WILL SEND EMERGENCY DRUG RESOURCES TO WESTCHESTER & UPSTATE NY TO BEAT BACK THE HEROIN & OPIOID EPIDEMIC
Schumer Says Legislation Just Passed Out Of The Judiciary Committee Was A Positive Step In Addressing Crisis But Doesn’t Provide Real Resources – Senator Demands Real Funding To Actually Combat Drug Epidemic In Westchester County
Westchester County Public Health Officials And Local Law Enforcement Need Immediate Federal Funding For Prevention, Treatment & Emergency First Responders; More Resources Are Vital To Stemming The Opioid Epidemic On The Ground
Schumer: Talks Is Cheap; Westchester Needs More Resources to Combat Drug Crisis
Standing at Student Assistance Services in Tarrytown, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today demanded that his colleagues in Congress back up their rhetoric and support passage of desperately needed emergency funding to confront the exploding heroin, opioid and prescription drug epidemic. In Westchester County, drug overdose-related deaths increased by 117 percent between 2010 and 2013. Schumer said it is time for Congress to put its money where its mouth is and provide emergency funding for a recently-passed drug prevention bill. Schumer said this critical bill could put a huge dent in the drug epidemic, but Congress still needs to allocate money and not just empty promises. Schumer said emergency funding will significantly help communities like those in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties reduce and prevent future drug overdoses and deaths.
“The opioid and heroin abuse crisis in Westchester and the Hudson Valley is a symptom of this national emergency, and we need to fight back now. And that means Congress needs to put its money where its mouth is and support the prevention, treatment and law enforcement steps needs to turn the tide against this scourge,” said Schumer. “All of the rhetoric in the world isn’t going to help expand access to Nalaxone to prevent overdose deaths; and endless Senate speeches and authorization bills won’t mean more beds at treatment centers to curb addiction – only emergency funding and resources to combat this crisis will do that. It’s time for Congress to walk the walk and pass the desperately-needed emergency funding that will really make a difference in this fight.”
In the United States, drug overdose deaths have exceeded car crashes as the number one cause of injury death. Two Americans die of drug overdoses every hour and 2,500 youths aged between 12 and 17 abuse prescription drugs for the first time every day. According to a January 2016 report from the Journal News, there were 152 reports of opiate misuse among students in Westchester County school districts during the 2014-2015 academic school year. During this time period, nine Westchester-area high school students reportedly told Student Assistance Services counselors that they had used heroin, while 59 students from 33 Westchester high schools reported using the painkiller Oxycodone and 29 students reported using Percocet – a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone – without a prescription.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids—a class of drugs that include prescription pain medications and heroin—were involved in 28,648 deaths nationwide in 2014. According to the Westchester County Medical Examiner, drug overdose-related deaths increased by 117 percent between 2010 and 2013 in Westchester County alone, and admissions to treatment facilities, citing heroin as the primary drug of abuse, in Westchester County increased 54 percent from 1,215 in 2007 to 1,877 in 2013. In a December 2015 report released by the Journal News, it found communities just north of New York City – like those in Westchester County and the Lower Hudson Valley – logged an annual average of 3,145 controlled-substance arrests from 2010 to 2014. According to the piece, medical-examiner records show heroin killed 230 people in the Lower Hudson Valley during that four-year time period – approximately 170 of those deaths were tied to opioid abuse. Finally, according to the Journal News’ December report, federal agents seized nearly 2,000 pounds of heroin in the State of New York in 2015 – more than 10 times the number of pounds seized in 2009.
As a result, Schumer said more must be done to combat this scourge of drug abuse and overdose-related deaths in Westchester County and the Hudson Valley. Schumer said oftentimes, due to a lack of funding and resources, both victims of drug abuse and law enforcement agencies alike do not get the resources they need. In fact, in 2013, National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2013, only approximately 11 percent of people in the United States that needed substance use disorder treatment actually received it. Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has reported that there are approximately 32 providers for every 1,000 individuals needing substance use disorder treatment. Schumer said this further demonstrates the urgent need for Congress to approve emergency federal funds that would provide additional resources for prevention, treatment, emergency first responders and more to stem the opioid epidemic on the ground.
Schumer said the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015 (CARA), which recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a critical first step in providing these additional resources. However, Schumer said more must be done to supplement this bill, as it authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use, but does not currently appropriate any additional funding to do this. Schumer said this bill could be transformative for communities across the U.S., including those in Westchester County, if it had the real funding needed to provide these resources. Schumer explained that the bill currently seeks to:
- Expand the availability of naloxone –?which can counter the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose – to law enforcement agencies and other first responders;
- Improve prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion “and to help at-risk individuals access services,” because inefficiencies and loopholes in the current programs allow many individuals to game the system and obtain more drugs than they should;
- Shift resources towards identifying and treating incarcerated people who are suffering from addiction, rather than just punishment as is often the case currently;
- And prohibit the Department of Education from including questions about the conviction of an applicant for the possession or sale of illegal drugs on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) financial aid form
However, Schumer said without real funding, public health workers and law enforcement officials across NY State will not be able to take these actions. That is why Schumer is urging his colleagues in Congress to approve emergency federal funds, such as those proposed in a bill presented by Senator Shaheen [D-NH], which would provide additional resources for prevention, treatment and emergency first responders. Schumer highlighted this as one of many legislative packages that could help communities and states stem the opioid epidemic on the ground.
Specifically, Senator Shaheen’s legislation – of which Schumer is an original co-sponsor – called the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, would allocate an additional $600 million to specific programs at the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services for local governments to utilize in this fight, including $200 million to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, $10 million to the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force Grant Program and $225 million to the Substance Abuse Preventing and Treatment Block Grant Program. Schumer also said Senator Manchin [D-WV] has introduced legislation that would fund a grant program for states or non-profits to conduct culturally sensitive consumer education about opioid abuse. Schumer said this is another program that would be helpful on the local level and provide additional funding to stem this scourge of heroin abuse across the U.S. and in places like the Hudson Valley.
Schumer was joined by Ellen Moorehouse, Executive Director of Student Assistance Services and Susan Brownbill-Vega Assistant District Attorney for Westchester County.
Schumer has long fought to support the federal government’s drug policy is to build safe and healthy communities. Schumer has previously fought to provide additional funding to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, which helps specific counties – designated as HIDTAs – address upticks in heroin usage and drug-related crime by improving coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Schumer has also urged his colleagues in Congress to Schumer is pass the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act, which would help halt the dramatic increase in opiate and heroin overdoses in border-facing communities by making it easier for federal law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute drug traffickers who shuttle drugs over the border into places like Buffalo in Western New York.