As opioid-related deaths rise in Capital Region, Schumer offers ‘two-pronged plan’

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ALBANY – The Capital Region has seen a record number of opioid-related deaths over the past two years, including four fatal overdoses in Schenectady earlier this month.

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer cited the Schenectady tragedies at the Albany Addiction Care Center on Monday as he announced a two-pronged plan to tackle the opioid crisis, including increasing federal funding for programs treatment and prevention and allocating more resources to the law. enforcement.

Schumer is pushing for a $3.2 billion increase in federal funding for drug treatment and prevention in the next budget, bringing drug control funding to $42.5 billion a year.

“I’ve already spoken to the White House about my intentions, but they know Congress has the wallet…I want to promise the people of the Capital Region that I’m going to use all the clout I have as a as Majority Leader to get this increase in funding and to ensure that a good portion of it goes here in the Capital Region,” Schumer said.

The senator is also asking the Office of National Drug Control Policy to designate Schenectady and Rensselaer counties as “High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas,” or HDTAs, unlocking critical federal funds and resources for the law enforcement in these counties.

With the federal funding that accompanies the designation, Schenectady and Rensselaer counties “would be able to hire two analysts for the Capital Region Crime Analysis Center to continue its efforts in the fight against drugs, guns and gang violence,” Schumer wrote in a letter to federal officials. .

There were nearly 300 opioid-related deaths in the four county area in 2020 and the first nine months of 2021, according to the latest report from the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports. quarterly county opioid report.

In upstate New York, there were 4,204 fatal overdoses during the same period.

Nationally, in 2021, more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses – a 15% increase from the previous year – setting a tragic new record.

Currently, only Albany County has the HDTA designation, which allows for coordination between local and federal drug intelligence units, and opens up funding sources for things like naloxone kits, labor work and drug testing technologies.

In 2021, hundreds of residents of the capital region were saved by naloxone kits, according to state data.

In 2021, Albany County emergency personnel administered Narcan more than 500 times. In Rensselaer County, Narcan was administered nearly 200 times last year. In Saratoga, nearly 150 lives were saved with the drug and in Schenectady there were 250 uses of Narcan.

Schumer was joined on Monday by Keith Stack, CEO of the Addictions Care Center of Albany, which offers a range of inpatient and outpatient addiction programs and services.

Stack said the crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the ubiquity of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often found in heroin and other drugs.

“We were making progress before 2020, but the COVID-forced isolation has created real issues…we’re providing all the services this funding is going to,” Stack said.

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