Between President Joe Biden’s approval and acknowledgement of the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, and Saratoga County’s recent unveiling of a near real-time substance use surveillance dashboard, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko said hope is abound for fighting the opioid epidemic.
“The data that is going to be available through Saratoga County offers us more exchange, more information in the effort to publicly inform and educate,” said Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
This comes after the president acknowledged the legislation, which makes it easier for medical practitioners to prescribe medications like buprenorphine to treat substance use disorder, during last Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Biden signed the act into law in December.
Tonko was one of three sponsors — then-U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, a Schenectady native now serving as New York’s Lieutenant Governor, was also one — of the act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Tonko exchanged words with the president about the act following his address to the joint session of Congress.
“I just wanted the president to know how grateful I am of his support of the change we brought about in policy,” Tonko said.
During the exchange, Tonko said he told Biden “We’re going to go from 130,000 prescribers of buprenorphine to 1.8 million.”
“That’s hope for the addicted, for the country,” Tonko said.
The president, Tonko said, replied back, “It really is.”
The president also urged Congress aid in stopping fentanyl production, sale and trafficking at the U.S. border by providing funding to support actions such as working with companies like FedEx and having stronger penalties for those who traffic fentanyl.
Tonko said that now the work will be getting the information out there and educating people, which Saratoga County, a county Tonko represents, will be able to do using its new dashboard that collects data from six primary sources to provide a bigger picture on substance use in the county.
According to a press release from the county, the data is collected from the following sources:
- High Intensity Drug Trafficking Overdose Detection and Mapping Application Program, which uses data from the county sheriff’s department, state police and the Saratoga Springs Police Department.
- New York State Electronic Syndromic Surveillance System, which is data from emergency departments.
- Emergency Medical Services, which is call data.
- Saratoga County Coroner’s Office, which is toxicology report data.
- State Office of Addiction Services and Supports treatment admission rates.
- State Department of Health Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.
The goal is to collect the data in order to better educate the community, prevent future overdoses, treat those who are facing addictions and provide efficient response efforts to combating the opioid epidemic.
“While Saratoga County has made great progress in our fight against the scourge of opioids in our county, substance use is still a problem in our communities,” said Theodore T. Kusnierz, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors. “With this dashboard our professionals in public health, mental health, and law enforcement and our community partners will have the data they need to provide comprehensive prevention, education, treatment, and response services to our residents.”
The dashboard is available to the public and people can find resources for mental health and substance use prevention and treatment on it. The dashboard can be found at savealifeto.day or by visiting the county website at www.saratogacountyny.gov and clicking on the Department of Health webpage.