Stirpe: Statewide drug takeback program will help save lives

Al Stirpe

Stirpe: Statewide drug takeback program will help save lives

The heroin epidemic continues to cut promising lives short and tear families apart across our nation. Sadly, New York State is far from immune to the scourge of opioid addiction. From 2015 to 2016, our state saw a nearly 30 percent increase in the number of overdose deaths due primarily to opioids like fentanyl and heroin.[1]

Opioid addiction often begins with the use of prescription painkillers, whether obtained legitimately through a doctor or illegally from someone else’s medicine cabinet. It’s critical that we ensure unwanted or unused medicine doesn’t end up in the wrong hands as well as rein in the over-prescription of these highly addictive drugs.

That’s why I co-sponsored and helped pass the Drug Take Back Act, which was signed into law by the governor earlier this week. The law institutes a statewide drug takeback program – paid for by drug manufacturers, not taxpayers – that chain and mail-order pharmacies would be required to participate in (Ch. 120 of 2018). In addition, manufacturers would create public awareness campaigns to help make sure New Yorkers know about this vital initiative. For drop-off locations near you, visit https://apps.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1.

And to prevent New Yorkers from receiving extra or unwanted painkillers in the first place, I helped pass legislation allowing patients to partially fill controlled substance prescriptions (A.10392-A). Currently, patients may partially fill these types of drugs, but are not allowed to fill the remainder of the prescription. This bill gives patients up to 30 days to fill the remainder of the prescription so they can get the medication they need without filling a prescription all at once.

While these measures are critically important, the key to addressing this epidemic still lies in treatment, prevention and education programs. Earlier this year, I helped pass a state budget that provides $250 million to combat opioid addiction, including a $26 million increase for the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. The budget also creates a new Opioid Stewardship Fund, a partnership with the pharmaceutical industry to expand recovery and treatment programs for individuals with substance use disorder.

Despite these legislative successes, there’s still much more that we can do. I’ll keep pushing to pass a bill I authored that would require insurance companies to provide 90 days of inpatient rehabilitation services if prescribed by a doctor (A.492). We can’t effectively tackle this epidemic if vital treatment isn’t covered by health insurers.

Together, we can help our family members, friends and neighbors access the treatment they need to get and stay on the road to recovery and keep more people away from these deadly substances. As always, my door is open to you. If you have questions or concerns about this or any other community issue, please contact my office at 315-452-1115 or StirpeA@nyassembly.gov.

[1] rockinst.org/news/article/report-new-york-29-percent-increase-drug-deaths-2015-2016-largest-annual-increase-drug-related-deaths-six-years

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