A state senator from the Hudson Valley says more action is needed to help reverse the trend of climbing death tolls from opioids. He applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recently released plan to combat New York’s heroin and opioid epidemic but says more is needed.
State Senator David Carlucci says the number of opioid-related deaths in relatively small Rockland County soared to 35 for 2016.
“And in Rockland County, we have broken records. We have the most opioid-related deaths that we’ve ever had in our county,” Carlucci says. “In fact, in the last five years, we’ve seen an over 500 percent increase in opioid-related deaths right here in Rockland County.”
In fact, he says the yearly death tolls in both Rockland and Westchester Counties have more than tripled since 2008. Carlucci, an Independent Democrat, delivered the figures at the Rockland Council on Alcoholism & Other Drug Dependence in Nanuet, where Ruth Bowles is executive director.
“The epidemic is so insidious here in Rockland County, we have had to form a group of parents whose children have died from drug overdoses,” Bowles says. “We started out with three moms whose children died from a drug overdose. Last week, in this office, we had 15 parents who are part of that group.”
Carlucci says the death toll climb is mirrored elsewhere across the Hudson Valley and the state. He says there are have been helpful actions that he continues to support, such as training to administer naloxone in a narcotic overdose, but more needs to be done to stem the crisis, such as providing better access to medical-assisted treatment.
“Only about 3 percent of all medical professionals, all prescribers in the United States are allowed to prescribe drugs like buprenorphine. They have to take a special certification and then they’re capped on the amount of patients that they can see in a year,” Carlucci says. “Now the problem with that is while only 3 percent of doctors can prescribe these lifesaving drugs like buprenorphine that help people wean themselves off the withdrawal effects of opioids, all doctors can prescribe opioids, so we’ve got real problem here.”
During his regional state of the state address on Long Island, Governor Cuomo announced a six-point plan to combat the epidemic. One point is to increase access to life-saving treatment by recruiting health-care providers to become prescribers. Again, Carlucci.
“We commend the governor for putting out his six-point plan,” says Carlucci. “We look forward to working with him to making that even stronger and adding some points to it as well.”
Such as the following:
“I put forth legislation that I’m hopeful will be signed into law this year that will mandate the chain pharmacies to be drug a take-back center so we can easily dispose of these drugs and get them off the street,” says Carlucci.
Cuomo’s plan includes creating New York’s first recovery high schools. Bowles supports that, but says more is needed.
“What is missing is further work with the health-care and insurance companies and working with the pharmaceutical companies. That is a big piece of trying to put this under control,” Bowles says. “Pharmaceutical companies are in the business to make money, and this is their bread and butter. So trying to tell them to … What we really want to do is educate them, to educate them on the disease of addiction.”
“It’s the number-one cause of accidental death in New York state right now, something that most people, it’s shocking to hear that our children are more likely to be killed by an opioid overdose than in a car accident,” Carlucci says.
Cuomo’s six-point plan also mentions establishing 24/7 crisis treatment centers.