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Upstate NY Health Officials, Treatment Providers And Local Law Enforcement Need Immediate Federal Funding For Prevention, Treatment & Emergency First Responders; More Resources On The Ground Are Vital To Stemming The Opioid Epidemic 

Schumer: Congress Must Get Serious About Fighting The Opioid & Heroin Epidemic 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today demanded that his colleagues in Congress back up their rhetoric with action and pass a desperately needed emergency funding to confront the exploding heroin and opioid abuse epidemic. According to New York State, over a 10-year period (2004-2013), there were more than 3,300 opioid-related deaths across Upstate New York. Schumer said it is time for Congress to do more and provide emergency funding for a drug prevention bill the Senate is currently working on. Schumer said this critical bill could put a huge dent in the drug epidemic by allocating much needed additional funding. Schumer said emergency funding will significantly help communities, like those across Upstate NY prevent, future drug overdoses and deaths.  

“The opioid and heroin abuse crisis in Upstate New York is a symptom of this national emergency, and we need to fight back now. And that means Congress should fund critical programs that support the prevention, treatment and law enforcement steps needed to turn the tide against this scourge,” said Schumer. “It’s plain and simple: Either you’re for expanding access and funding for Nalaxone to prevent overdose deaths, along with other life-saving measures, or you’re against it. The endless Senate speeches and authorization bills won’t save lives, put in  more beds at treatment centers to curb addiction – only emergency funding and resources to combat this crisis will do that. Congress needs to wake up and stop making excuses 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 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. Schumer said this increasing, and deadly, trend shows the opioid and heroin epidemic is not going away, and addiction does not discriminate between age, demographic, or socio-economic status.

As a result, Schumer said more must be done to combat this scourge of drug abuse and overdose-related deaths in Upstate NY. 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 the Senate is currently working on, 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 Upstate NY, 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 $230 million to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, $10 million to the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force Grant Program and $300 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 Upstate NY. The President has also proposed $1.1 billion in new mandatory funding over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use, specifically it provides money for medication- assisted treatment, National Health Service Corp and other programs.

Schumer highlighted the number of opioid-related deaths in Upstate NY. According to New York State, there were a total of 3,316 opioid-related deaths throughout Upstate NY over the last recorded decade (2004-2013):

  • ·           In the Capital Region, there were 341 deaths over that 10-year period (2004-2013), and the number of deaths increased from 10 in 2004 to 51 in 2013.
  • ·           In Central New York, there were 401 deaths over that 10-year period (2004-2013), and the number of deaths increased from 2 in 2004 to 76 in 2013.
  • ·           In Western New York, there were 574 deaths over that 10-year period (2004-2013), and the number of deaths increased from 16 in 2004 to 105 in 2013.
  • ·           In the Rochester-Finger Lakes, there were 475 deaths over that 10-year period (2004-2013), and the number of deaths increased from 9 in 2004 to 61 in 2013.
  • ·           In the Southern Tier, there were 218 deaths over that 10-year period (2004-2013), and the number of deaths increased from 2 in 2004 to 36 in 2013.
  • ·           In the Hudson Valley, there were 1,135 deaths over that 10-year period (2004-2013), and the number of deaths increased from 16 in 2004 to 173 in 2013.
  • ·           In the North Country, there were 172 deaths over that 10-year period (2004-2013), and the number of deaths increased from 3 in 2004 to 26 in 2013.

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. The HIDTA program helps promote greater coordination between local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel by funding intelligence-sharing initiatives, drug use prevention and drug treatment initiatives, and general support for programs that provide assistance to law enforcement beyond their normal scope of duty. 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.