Schumer Seeks Funds For Opioid Fight

Jan 11, 2018

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is calling for more federal funds to help upstate New York battle the opioid crisis. 

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, the Senate Democratic leader cited the Center For Disease Control and Prevention’s Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes, which shows life expectancy in the U.S. falling slightly for the second year in a row in 2016.   "Imagine in 2018, life expectancy in America, these United States of America, this great country, is getting lower. It's not supposed to be, and it doesn't have to be, that the most developed and wealthy country in the world has this. What's one of the biggest reasons? Probably the biggest? Drug overdose deaths. That's right.”

Schumer quoted state Department of Health numbers to make his case that upstate New York has not been spared.   "Central New York, 242 opioid deaths, 84 more than 2015 – 53 percent increase.  Rochester-Finger Lakes, 172, 53 more deaths, a 45 percent increase. Southern Tier, 125 deaths, 35 more than 2015 – that's a 39 percent increase. Hudson Valley, 340, 45 more than 2015, 15 percent increase. Western New York, 343, 35 more than 2015 – an 11 percent increase.  Capital Region, 111 deaths, five more than 2015 - that's a 5 percent increase. And in North Country it was the same, there were 59 deaths each year, so that wasn't an increase."

President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national health emergency in late October. Schumer says the money hasn't been put up.  Schumer said "Focusing attention is good, but without real dollars for increased treatment and increased interdiction, without the kind of mass spectrometers that you can put at airports and post offices to detect fetanyl, you're not gonna get success."

Schumer noted the president’s commission concluded more funding is needed.  The White House has been noncommittal.

Capital Region Democratic Assemblyman John McDonald says the state is doing its part to battle opioids.  "I think really where we have to focus the energy, is on the proper resources for treatment and recovery and I expect in the next couple of months we'll start to hear about these new urgent access centers that we approved in last year's budget that are gonna give individuals a place to go when they really are ready for treatment."

Schumer promises to prioritize securing additional federal funds during final budget negotiations in Congress. McDonald, who is also a pharmacist, says, thanks to relentless media coverage and public service campaigns,  there is a raised awareness of the problems and pitfalls associated with opioids.   "E.R. physicians and dentists are prescribing very smaller amounts of opioids. That's a good thing. We're seeing patients ask 'how do I dispose of the medication I don't use?' That never used to happen. It would stay in the medicine cabinet. They realize that opioids, in the medicine cabinet, are part of the challenge, when teenagers become addicted. So we're seeing a greater awareness, that's the education component. What we need to focus on even more is having the proper resources.”

On its website the CDC notes overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than 1999; 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses.