From education to tougher criminal penalties to more access to treatment, a New York State Senate task force report recommends four dozen changes that they believe will put a dent in the continuing deadly opioid epidemic.
The Senate's Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction released its 2016 report during a Tuesday afternoon news conference in Albany. The 48-page document provides a four-part strategy involving prevention, treatment, recovery and enforcement.
"We are putting forward 48 recommendations, both legislative and budgetary, that we feel will address the issues and will help so many throughout the state who are struggling and battling with addiction," said Senator and task force co-chair George Amedore (R-C-I, Rotterdam), who opened the presentation.
Recommended changes include new limits on first-time painkiller prescriptions, patient counseling prior to prescribing Schedule II opioids, giving courts more power to order outpatient treatment, and tougher penalties for drug dealers. (The full report can be reviewed by clicking here.)
"What we're talking about here today is the culmination of listening to people who are dealing with this epidemic on the front lines," said Senator Robert Ortt (R, North Tonawanda), a fellow co-chair of the task force. "These are not reforms that have originated in Albany. They originated in New York, out in the districts, out where people are dying, where people are fighting this epidemic, where there are success stories."
While Senator Ortt supports the notion that users need to take responsibility for their actions, he agrees with lawmakers that it's time to put an end to the stereotypes about drug users and understand that the crisis is touching almost every neighborhood and touching demographics that one might not expect.
"If you look at addiction, I think when you see the number of deaths, and when I've seen it across swaths of our community, we can't afford to just say 'well it's not my problem' because it is becoming our problem," said Ortt to WBFO in a phone interview following the Albany news conference. "And it's costing tens of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars probably, to treat these individuals. Or if they get arrested, those are law enforcement resources. Every time they're arresting a heroin addict, they're not helping someone who is trapped in their home or somebody who's having a heart attack, whatever it might be."