At a time when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated the opioid epidemic, Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to increase funding for opioid and substance misuse in response to another spike in opioid overdoses arises on Long Island and Staten Island.
Schumer wants to add $3.2 billion to the National Drug Control Program to bring the total federal investment to $42.5 billion. The funds include a nearly $1.5 billion increase for drug treatment and an additional $303 million for community mental health and substance use disorder treatment services.
Schumer said he knows there are solutions. “First is prevention — going to the schools and everywhere else telling the kids this is no way out, don’t listen to the drug dealers and even your friends who may be pushing this stuff. The second is treatment, as I said we know treatment works. The third is recovery, making sure that once people are treated, they walk into good lives,” Schumer said.
Officials said there were 36 confirmed fatal opioid overdoses during the first three months of 2022 in Nassau County. Suffolk County has had 53 confirmed fatal overdoses so far this year.
“We all know that Staten Island has been the frontline and will continue to be the frontline of the opioid scourge. Today’s push to supercharge the funds that can and have put out the fire is no drill, it’s really a necessity,” Schumer said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to ameliorate the collateral damage caused by the [coronavirus] pandemic and the opioid addiction is maybe one of the most intense aspects of what the COVID crisis left behind,” he said. In 2020, there were 132 overdose fatalities on Staten Island – the highest number of fatalities in borough history. In 2021, District Attorney Michael McMahon’s office recorded at least 114 overdose fatalities.
“Today’s push to supercharge the funds that can and have helped put out this fire is no drill, it’s really a necessity,” Schumer said, referring to a shortage in financial aid for treatment and counseling options. Data show more than 100,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses during the first year of the pandemic. This was the first time overdose deaths topped six-digits during a 12-month period. The pandemic left people struggling with social isolation and mental health challenges, experts said.
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