As the epidemic of heroin and opiate abuse has erupted throughout the country, NY state Senator Terrence P. Murphy has made it his priority to combat the scourge of heroin addiction that continues to plague the Hudson Valley. In an effort to effectuate his lofty anti-addiction campaign, last week Senator Murphy brought together local elected officials and experts from the fields of law enforcement, addiction, treatment, and education to evaluate and discuss his seven point plan to fight the ever-growing problem of heroin abuse.
“We need to make it easier for someone seeking help to get into rehab,” says Murphy who served on the senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. “We must make our penalties for traffickers much stricter and it’s time to better fund drug prevention programs in schools by once and for all eliminating the Gap Elimination Adjustment which continues to burden our most needy school district for years.” Since the 2009-2010 school year the state has deducted from each school district’s state aid allocation an amount known as the Gap Elimination Adjustment to help the state fill its revenue shortfall.
Under Murphy’s plan unveiled January 29, treatment will become more accessible, first responders will be better equipped to save lives, and law enforcement will be empowered through more state funding. The Senator’s proposal also includes tougher sentences for convicted drug traffickers.
The specifics of the plan include:
- Sponsoring legislation to require insurance companies to cover substance abuse treatment and rehab up to 90 days;
- Using drug seizure proceeds to provide funding for NARCAN, a potentially life-saving overdose treatment, to all responders;
- Helping with prevention by providing state funding for school resource officers (Police SROs) and Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) in all area schools by restoring the Gap Elimination Adjustment school aid cuts made by Senate Democrats in 2010;
- Forming a federal-interstate-local joint, inter-agency law enforcement counter-narcotics proliferation task force and removing legal barriers to data sharing, aspects of which are already underway;
- A state grant program for local narcotics unit to provide stepped up enforcement against drug distributors
- Increasing penalties for major narcotics traffickers; and
- Restoring funding cuts enacted by Senate Democrats to the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to fund peer recovery advocate, addiction services and treatment programs
While his plan emphasizes the importance insurance rehab coverage and state funding for educational awareness, Murphy is after tougher penalties for drug traffickers and added training for first responders. Where there is a fatal overdose, Murphy wants the heroin dealer to face a homicide charge. Additionally, the Senator wants all first responders to be trained in administering Narcan, or Nalaxone, which is used to treat opioid overdoses. Further, his agenda calls for restoration of funding to the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
County Legislator Michael Smith said, “No community is immune from the blight of heroin and prescription drug abuse. Senator Murphy’s approach is the correct blend of treatment, prevention, and enforcement needed to treat addiction for what it is: a disease. I thank him for leadership on this issue at the state level.”
After taking his plan on the road, Murphy intends to hold a forum “every two or three weeks,” with the next one scheduled for February 19, in Pawling. According to Governor Cuomo’s office, statewide there were 89,000 heroin and prescription painkiller treatment admissions in 2013–25,000 more admissions than in 2004. Locally, treatment facilities are full or near capacity, and recently, federal, county and local law enforcement agencies have seized $1 million worth of illegally sold prescription pain killers.
Murphy says that there is still more to be done, especially with respect to tougher penalties for distribution and increased insurance coverage for addicts seeking treatment. This is the type of problem that does not discriminate, it “crosses all ethnicities, it crosses all races. No family is immune to this,” says Murphy. “We have to let them know, the families, that there’s a light that’s coming to the problem in the Hudson Valley area.”
If you’re facing drug charges in the Albany area, contact The Rosenblum Law Firm at 888-815-3649.