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Senator Schumer Pushes for $3.2B from the Federal Government for Opioid Prevention, Treatment, & Recovery

At a time when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated Staten Island’s drug crisis, Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to increase funding for opioid and substance misuse by $3.2 billion. Read More

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.

COVID EXACERBATED THE OPIOID PROBLEM

So far this year there have been 134 overdoses, including 54 overdose fatalities, McMahon said. “The funding commitment must match the strength of the enemy, which unfortunately has only grown in strength and pervasiveness since COVID, which in many ways overshadowed and exacerbated this crisis,” McMahon said at Thursday’s press conference.

Pandemic aside, the emergence of fentanyl has also intensified the opioid crisis. Between 2000 and 2014, only 2% to 3% of overdose deaths were fentanyl-related, a number that has since skyrocketed to 80% in 2020.

Luke Nasta, CEO of Camelot of Staten Island, has been vocal about the lack of urgency surrounding the opioid crisis in comparison to the coronavirus pandemic. “How many lives could we have saved? How many lives could we have intervened? How many deaths might we have prevented? How many families could we have helped?” Nasta said about the 100-plus beds that have yet to be built.

“The deaths are certainly what gets everyone’s attention, but the deaths are the tip of the iceberg with this problem. What’s beneath the surface is the contagion of drug misuse and alcohol misuse,” he said.

Increased funding, like the $3.2 billion Schumer is pushing for, would help the Fentanyl Abuse and Overdose Prevention Task Force, which recently passed both houses of the legislature and Cusick hopes will soon be signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

WHERE WOULD THE MONEY GO?

Of the $3.2 billion, Schumer wants to increase the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) budget by $1.489 billion, for a total of $10.7 billion, for drug treatment-related funding, including:

  • Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics Expansion Grant program – $553 million, an increase of $303 million over last year;
  • State Opioid Response Grants program – $2 billion, an increase of $500 million over the Fiscal Year 2022 enacted budget;
  • SAMHSA’s First Responder Training for Opioid Overdose-related Drugs program – $68 million, an increase of $26 million over last year;
  • The Drug-Free Communities Support Program – $106 million, Schumer wants to increase this federal pot by $4 million so Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness – Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) and other community-based programs have more access to funding.
  • High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program – $293.5 million, Schumer wants to increase this by $3.5 million, as Staten Island a part of the NY-NJ HIDTA program that helped local drug task forces to bust traffickers.