Drug treatment advocates and several legislators are calling for $15 million in the 2014-15 budget to combat an epidemic of abuse of both legal and illegal substances statewide.
From 1991 to 2010, the number of people who were consumers of prescription opiates increased by 40 million nationwide, according to the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, and that has led to an increase in prescription drug abuse and dependency. Meanwhile, illegal narcotics remain available and in many cases are less expensive.
“You can buy a bag of heroin for less than what it costs for a pack of cigarettes,” Executive Director John Coppola said during a news conference in Albany on Tuesday. “We are asking our state Legislature and the governor to pass a budget that includes resources for treatment and recovery, which are necessary to combat this epidemic.”
Sen. Phil Boyle, a Suffolk County Republican, said he receives phone calls on a daily basis from parents and schools pushing for more resources to combat drug abuse. Boyle is chairman of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
“We do what we can, but the fact is that we need to focus more and we need more funding,” he said. “We need to tackle this problem immediately. There is no time to wait.”
Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, D-Brooklyn, is urging the Assembly and the Senate to work together to gather funding for prevention, treatment and detox programs across the state, for both legal and illegal drugs.
“We find that these youngsters who cannot get prescription drugs find it much easier to get bags of heroin on the street,” said Cymbrowitz, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. “This has become an exploding issue in New York.”
The not-for-profit substance abuse organization is one of the largest in the nation. Its push for more funding came during its annual advocacy day at the state Capitol.
The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, a state agency, is looking to use the $15 million to enhance current programs in the state for drug prevention, treatment and recovery.
“These are very great concerns,” said Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Nassau County, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health. “We know that they are there and that the misuses of opiate drugs are there. This is in all parts of the state, and we hope to move this forward and decrease these problems in New York.”