State Senate drug addiction task force hears of Hudson Valley concerns


Larkin makes a point. Listening is St. Sen. George Amedore

NEWBURGH – Members of the State Senate Task Force on Heroin and
Opioid Addiction have been making their rounds across the state, holding
public forums to gather information from local stakeholders, elected officials,
medical experts, treatment experts and non-profit organizations on how
to best approach legislation aimed toward finding solutions for the opioid
scourge that has been destroying lives and communities throughout the
Senator William Larkin (R, Cornwall-on-Hudson), a task force member and representative for the Newburgh area, hosted the Orange County portion of the series of statewide public hearings on Tuesday.
Larkin said although the State Senate has been doing a lot of work on the opioid epidemic, there has been trouble gaining traction within the assembly. He said these series of public forums will allow the task force to have the information necessary to submit real solutions and get both houses onboard.
“Now what we’re going to be able to go back and say to the Assembly, and others in our own house, this is what the problem is, now we have a solution; number one, we work together,” said Larkin. “There’s no ‘I’ in team and if we all put together, cooperation and teamwork can help us address this properly and save a lot of lives.”
Of the 23 speakers at Tuesday’s hearing, many reiterated a few similar areas to be focused on – the need for more funding for treatment centers and non-profit addiction treatment organizations, a reduction in the stigma surrounding addiction that results in communities being reluctant to host treatment facilities, as well as the need to make medication assisted treatment more available and easier for prescribers to attain permission to dispense.
Orange County Mental Health and Social Services Commissioner Darcie Miller said, in addition to consistent screening tools, matching the outcomes to appropriate treatment and providing immediate care to those screened individuals, when it comes to opioid dependence, medical assisted treatment is what’s showing the results.
“When we talk about opioids specifically, addiction is much more than opioids, but today the hot substance is opioids. That is best treated with a combination of medication assisted treatment, Methadone, Vivitrol, Suboxone and cognitive behavioral therapy interventions,” said Miller. “Those who have natural supports have greater likelihood of recovery. Those who don’t, need to have a system that provides them with shelter and care and allows them to have a leg up to move forward in their lives once they achieve recovery.”
Along with Miller, multiple other speakers alluded to the empirical evidence
showing the vast succession rates with opioid dependent individuals who
receive medication assisted treatment; however, the concern is that some
prescribers see the patients as liabilities due to stigma, the procedures
to gain license to dispense opioid treatment medication, like Suboxone,
is very tight and there are very few places that have the authorization
to prescribe these medications, making waiting lists, or inaccessibility,
a very real thing for addicts seeking treatment.
Senator George Amedore (R, Rotterdam), another member of the Senate Task Force, said he hopes the communities they visit, holding these public hearings, will take the opioid issue seriously and put aside the stigmas they might have to rally around their fellow community members who desperately need their support to get better.
“I really hope that people in the general area, and then in the local communities, will have an open mind and an understanding that this is not about needle pushing, or drug dealing, but this is about bringing help to those most vulnerable in our community, to get them from addiction into recovery, to get them on a pathway that will bring stability in their lives that will become less chemically dependent to function and cope,” said Amedore.
The Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction will be continuing traveling the state to hold public hearings. The lawmakers will continue with sessions in Columbia County and then travel to Western New York and the Finger Lakes region.
At the end of these statewide hearings, they plan to draft legislation based on what they had learned from the hearings in each community.