Senator Schumer Announces Opioid Addiction Plan
Hot on the heels of a string of fatal drug overdoses and in the wake of the three most lethal years on record, New York Senator Schumer announced a two-pronged, multi-billion dollar plan to ramp up the fight against opioids. This wasn’t in much-discussed New York City though; it was in the oft-neglected Capitol Region. A region that certainly could use its fair share of assistance.
We got the news from the staff at WRGB (aka Albany’s CBS6), then straight from Senator Schumer himself. And for emphasis we turned to Dave Lucas at National Public Radio‘s most excellent WAMC (aka Northeast Public Radio), in addition to The (Troy) Record. Though frankly, we found the newspaper’s site to be incredibly unfriendly. (Hard paywalls and bad navigation are hardly a way to increase readership.)
Senator Schumer Speaks
Senator Schumer being the consummate politician, he is of course concerned with optics. Consequently, his opioid-fighting press conference was held at Addictions Care Center of Albany. That’s okay. We get it. You’ve got a plan to sell. Besides, we bet the treatment center welcomed the increased attention. In fact, we bet all treatment centers welcomed the increased attention. After all, the more addiction gets normalized, the faster we’ll get rid of the stigma.
So yes, the setting made good sense. It also gave the senator an opportunity to address the recent back-to-back overdose deaths in nearby Schenectady. Mostly though, Schumer wanted to bring attention to the two years of record-setting fatalities. He also wanted to show that those stats warranted the region being granted designation under the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy‘s HIDTA program. HIDTA stands for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. And while Albany County is so designated, nearby Rensselaer and Schenectady counties are not.
“We’ve seen two years of record setting years of opioid deaths,” said Schumer. “In 2020, there were 165 fentanyl deaths. That’s the last year we have data, there are only 120 were recorded in the region between January and September of 2021. So obviously, it’s higher. And that means 300 deaths in the last two years. That means just about every other day. Often a young person dies of opioids, here, and that’s their loss. It’s a loss of our society because they’re not in it anymore, and they could be producing and helping, but it’s also a loss to their families and their friends and it leaves a hole in the world.”
The Verdict is In!
Well, less than 30 days later we’ve received the results of Senator Schumer’s ONDCP query – it worked! Well, it halfway worked anyway. On July 13 White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta announced the latest counties to be granted High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area status and Schenectady County was on the hitlist. (No word on Rensselaer County.) That means Schenectady County will be joining the New York/New Jersey HIDTA.
It also means Schenectady County will be receiving all the added benefits and resources granted such status.
Follow the Money
All of this money flowing into the fight comes as part of Biden’s American Rescue Plan. It’s an ambitious effort – perhaps the most robust in our nation’s history, especially if you calibrate the amount of money and resources being directed to narcotics. It’s not all for interdiction efforts either. The ARP includes nearly $4 billion for 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. It also included $30 million devoted to enhancing harm reduction interventions like syringe services programs, which is surely a first on a national scale.
Schumer was advocating for a $3.2 billion overall add to the National Drug Control Strategy. That would boost the total pot to $42.5 billion.
Senator Schumer also ticked off a few other efforts included in the Biden administration’s proposed budget, among them a “historic” $85 million for CDC’s evidence-based harm reduction services and $63 million for SAMHSA’s First Responder Training program. It also calls for continuing the critical 10% set aside for recovery in the SAMHSA Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block program.
Another key though seemed to be that the plan called for increases in funding for the CDC’s Drug-Free Communities (DFC) support program. That would allocate even more resources to both Rensselaer and Schenectady counties.
Healing Properties Applauds Senator Schumer
Healing Properties applauds Senator Schumer, not just for his addiction-fighting efforts in New York’s Capital Region, but for the attention and urgency he brings to the issue. Few politicians are willing to consistently go to bat for addicts; they seem especially timid about seriously lobbying for treatment. To see Schumer out on the front lines time after time helps keep attention to the cause. His prowess also helps gets things done. Witness Schenectady County being granted HIDTA status less than 30 days from the press conference.
And what about that press conference? Held on the grounds of an addiction treatment center in the state capitol? Does it get any better than that? Not if you’re advocating change. And not if you’re advocating treatment.
And you? How are you faring? Are you living in a high traffic area? Does it feel like it? Would you like some help? Are you ready? Then please, give us a call. We’ll help get you sorted. After all, that’s what we do. And it’s what we have been doing for 20 solid years. Really.