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EDITORIAL: Help direct state policy and funding on opioid crisis

EDITORIAL: Help direct state policy and funding on opioid crisis

Solutions need input from all involved

What you know could help save lives.

Your experiences could influence the direction of state funding to where it needs to go to do the most good.

There are few opportunities in the relationship between government and its citizens where so many perspectives, so many experiences, so many potential solutions can be so effective than in the fight against the opioid epidemic in New York.

So when the state Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention holds one of its seven hearings and roundtable discussions later this year to accept public comments on how to best to address this crisis, sign up to speak and share what you know.

The first of these information-seeking discussions will be held August 9 in the Bronx. They’ll be followed by similar such hearings around the state, including the one in Albany on a date yet to be determined.

How important is it that you share what you know with legislators?

According to the latest statistics compiled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2017, there were 3,224 overdose deaths­­­ involving opioids in New York—a rate of 16.1 deaths per 100,000 people.

The national rate is 14.6. The greatest increase   involved synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl.

Heroin deaths rose from 666 in 2013 to 1,356 four years later.

Deaths involving prescription opioids have shown a slower increase since 2013, but the rise is no less disturbing. They went from 859 to 1,044 cases in 2017.

That’s over 1,000 sons and daughters and family members and friends being put into graves in one year because of drugs prescribed by a physician.

The opioid crisis in New York is as complex as it is deadly, and it requires legislators to have a full understanding of its many facets, including information on the latest treatment and recovery options for those addicted to opioids, new medical approaches to addressing dependence, and new approaches to identifying and eradicating the sources of the drugs.

Lawmakers will be looking for guidance on where to allocate the next level of funding and on what new laws are needed.

They’ll want your input on whether the legislation they’ve already passed and the funding they’ve already allocated has been effective, or whether resources need to be reallocated to need approaches and treatments.

They’ll want from scientists and researchers the latest information on the impact opioids have on the body, and testimony on what they’ve found are the most effective and up-to-date drugs and counseling methods to help get people off the drugs and to keep them off.

Lawmakers will need to hear from people who’ve been addicted, to tell them how they got addicted, what it did to their lives, what helped them most and what might help them best in the future.

They’ll need to hear from the families of opioid addicts to learn what they’ve gone through so that they’ll better understand the role of family in addressing the problem. Lawmakers will need to hear what tools families need from the state and what approaches they’ve found most effective.

They’ll need to hear from doctors who’ve prescribed opioids to get a better idea of how these drugs get into the hands of addicts, how people become addicted and how the proliferation of these drugs can be stopped.

They’ll need to hear from emergency responders and emergency room doctors and hospital administrators on what they see, what treatments they’ve found most effective, and what kind of funding they need.

They’ll need to hear from law enforcement to find out what tools and funding they need to fight the crisis, from cutting off the supply and prosecuting offenders.

They’ll need to hear from the courts and the drug-treatment people working at ground zero on the problem. What unique approaches are being taken in the criminal justice system, including alternatives to prison, and how effective have they been?

The opioid crisis is a problem that requires a lot of information from the people directly effected by it and from those who deal with it every day.

If you want to help, share what you know.

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