WASHINGTON – New York’s two representatives in the U.S. Senate both took time out on Wednesday to address to growing heroin and opioid epidemic that continues to affect communities across upstate new York, including here Chautauqua County.
On Wednesday, Senator Charles Schumer can out in support of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015, or CARA, which recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Schumer called the bill a critical first step in the fight against heroin and opioids, expanding the availability of naloxone – also known as narcan – to law enforcement and first responders, improving prescription drug monitoring programs, shifting resources to identifying and treating incarcerated people suffering from addiction, and prohibiting the Department of Education from questioning students about prior drug convictions on financial aid forms.
Meanwhile, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivered a speech on the Senate floor urging Congress to pass her bipartisan legislation to help combat the opioid epidemic.
Senators Gillibrand and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the Preventing Overprescribing for Pain Act as an amendment to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.
While addressing the senate, Gillibrand said the opioid addiction problem in the country is continuing to grow and congress needs to act.
“Last year alone, in communities all across the country, including many in New York, 1,400,000 more Americans started abusing opioids, and every day, 44 more people are killed by an overdose,” Gillibrand said. “We’ve seen enough data to know that our opioid addiction problem is spiraling out of control. Opioid addiction is destroying too many lives in our cities, too many families in our rural communities, and too many young men and women in our suburbs.”
Senator Gillibrand’s legislation would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue guidelines for the safe prescribing of opioids for the treatment of acute pain. The CDC is currently only focused on guidelines for opioids prescribed to treat chronic pain.
The drug overdose problem continues to be an issue locally in Chautauqua County. According to Rick Huber from the Mental Health Association, the county has had eight confirmed overdose deaths in just the past two weeks in the Jamestown area, and he said his office is also awaiting word on two more.
Huber believes the county and the state needs to focus resources on more long-term treatment solutions to help residents overcome their addiction. He said until the treatment side of the issue is addressed, heroin and opioid addiction will continue to be a serious problem in our communities.