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Last Week, Schenectady Experienced 4 Deadly Overdoses In A Single Week; City Of Albany Overdose Responses Have Exceeded The 3 Year Avg. Every Month In 2022; Despite Troubling Statistics Schenectady & Rensselaer Counties Are Still Not Designated A ‘High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,’ Blocking Vital Federal Resources To Beat Back Scourge In Capital Region

Schumer Launches Two-Part Plan: (1) Supercharge Community-Based Addiction Treatment With $3.2B Plus-Up To Boost Localities With Specific Needs, Like Capital Region, To Get Residents The Help They Need (2) Make Schenectady & Rensselaer Counties HIDTA-Designated To Boost Public Safety And Stop Dangerous Drug Traffickers

Schumer To Feds: Give Capital Region The Support It Needs To Stop Drug Traffickers, Keep Community Safe, And Save Lives

Standing at the Addictions Care Center of Albany, alongside law enforcement and addiction service advocates, following recent reports of a new wave of overdose deaths in the Capital Region, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launched a two-part plan to reduce opioid dependence, stop drug traffickers, keep Capital Region communities safe, and save lives. First, the senator detailed his formal push to supercharge the federal funds that help the nation, New York, and Capital Region combat the public health crisis that is opioid addiction by $3.2 billion dollars to bolster evidence-based prevention, treatment, and addiction recovery services like those at Albany’s Addiction Care Center. Second, Schumer revealed that two of the Capital Region’s largest counties, Schenectady and Rensselaer, still lack a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) designation despite experiencing back-to-back record opioid overdose deaths in 2020-21. Schumer said he is calling on the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to approve the counties requests to become HIDTA-designated areas to unlock key federal funding to stop major drug traffickers in their tracks.

“The data shows that Albany and the Capital Region are on the front line of the opioid scourge, and today’s push is to supercharge the funds that can have a meaningful impact saving lives,” said Senator Schumer.  “In far too many communities, including the Capital Region, the pandemic has made opioid addiction and its health impacts worse. That is why we need an all-of-the-above approach: more interdiction, prevention, treatment and recovery, to fight the flow of drugs, and more effectively assist those who are suffering from addiction.”

“The opioid overdose epidemic is worsened by illicit fentanyl combined with other illegal drugs.  As a recipient of Federal funding, The Addictions Care Center of Albany supports Senator Schumer’s pledge to significantly increase resources to support substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services”, said Keith Stack, CEO of the Addictions Care Center of Albany, Inc.

Specifically, Schumer said that a HIDTA designation would directly support coordinated law enforcement strategies at all levels and would make more federal resources available to reduce the supply of illegal drugs, like fentanyl, in the Capital Region. This includes giving local law enforcement the ability to purchase key equipment, such as narcotics analyzers and other equipment to combat drug trafficking at the ground level. Schumer also said a HIDTA designation would strengthen treatment access by facilitating critical partnerships between public health agencies and law enforcement and grants can be used to purchase critical equipment like Naloxone kits for first responders to mitigate the number of overdoses and prevent deaths. These kits have been proven repeatedly to save lives, and in the Capital Region alone, there use has skyrocketed, proving the immediate need to increase resources that help expand the use of this equipment in reversing overdoses. In 2021, EMS in Albany County administered Naloxone over 500 times, Rensselaer nearly 200 times, Saratoga nearly 150 times, and in Schenectady over 250 times.  

In addition, Schumer’s call to supercharge funding for National Drug Control Strategy in the upcoming federal budget to further support evidence-based prevention, treatment, and addiction recovery services builds on his work negotiating the American Rescue Plan, which included nearly $4 billion for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Use And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to ramp up critical mental health and substance use disorder treatment and services in our communities. This included $30 million devoted to enhancing harm reduction interventions like syringe services programs. Schumer said, overall, adding $3.2 billion more to the National Drug Control Strategy would boost the total pot to $42.5 billion. He said that, with the overall supercharge, the Capital Region would be able to, and would absolutely, receive more funds to help combat the pandemic-fueled increases in opioid addiction.

Adding to these investments, Schumer said that the Biden administration’s proposed budget includes $21.1 billion for HHS to further support prevention, treatment, and interdiction efforts. Importantly, it also incorporates a historic $85 million for CDC’s evidence-based harm reduction services, $63 million for SAMHSA’s First Responder Training program, and continues the critical 10% set aside for recovery in the SAMHSA Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block program. The plan also allocates over $18 billion to reduce the supply of illicit substances, including $747.5 million in increases for efforts to reduce the availability of drugs. Moreover, this plan calls for increases in funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Drug-Free Communities Support (DFC) program and for the HIDTA program, making the speedy approval of Schenectady and Rensselaer Counties pending applications that Senator Schumer called for today all the more important.

A copy of Schumer’s original letter of support, advocating for Schenectady County, which he has also sent for Rensselaer County, appears below:

Dear Director Parker:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by Schenectady County to be designated a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). This designation would enable Schenectady County and its crime-fighting departments to receive funding to fight a recent increase in drug trafficking that has greatly affected the health of the county.

Located in New York State’s Capital Region, Schenectady County has a population of approximately 155,000 people, 65,334 of which live in the City of Schenectady. Schenectady County is in a central geographical location that is convenient for traffickers. Its close proximity to the cities of Albany and Troy make combatting all crime, but particularly drug crime, a truly regional challenge. In recent years, investigations have found large amounts of heroin and fentanyl-laced crack and cocaine, and the introduction of crystal meth to the region.

With funding, Schenectady County would be able to hire 2 analysts for the Capital Region Crime Analysis Center (CRCAC) to further its efforts to combat drug, gun and gang violence, and heighten its ability to partner with the existing neighboring Albany County HIDTA, as well as Schenectady County law enforcement.

I applaud Schenectady County for its efforts to combat drug trafficking, and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval. Thank you for your consideration.