With drug overdoses continuing to increase dramatically throughout the state, legislators are considering spending tens of millions more dollars to combat the escalating heroin crisis.
Overdose deaths in Suffolk County have increased by more than 50 percent since 2010, leading officials at all levels of government to establish drug and heroin task forces and expand prevention, treatment and education programs. At the same time, the more widespread availability of the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan has saved more than 5,000 lives in Suffolk, according to the county health department.
Last week, both chambers of the State Legislature put forth budget proposals for the coming fiscal year that would increase spending to combat the heroin crisis by up to 40 percent.
“The heroin epidemic has touched all parts of New York State, especially Long Island,” said Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo today. “Those suffering from heroin addiction are not the stereotypical drug abusers that society is used to. They are the sons, daughters, family friends and next-door neighbors of Long Islanders.”
The Democratic-led Assembly is calling for the most dramatic increase in spending set aside for the heroin epidemic, from $135 million in this year’s budget to $190 million in its proposal for next year.
The Assembly would use $15 million of that to target underserved areas and populations of New York State for expanded heroin treatment services. Post-treatment recovery services would also be expanded under the Assembly’s proposal.
“These funds are vital to protecting our children and other loved ones from falling victim to deadly heroin and opioid abuse,” Assemblyman Fred Thiele said in a press release.
The Republican-led Senate’s proposal calls for $167 million in funding to combat the heroin epidemic, with initiatives including school prevention efforts, recovery coaches and the establishment of 17 additional recovery community centers, up from the state’s current three.
“[The heroin crisis] touches individuals in every social and economic group,” Senator Ken Lavalle said in a press release yesterday. “The Senate budget proposal includes important and necessary tools toward halting this epidemic.”
That includes an allocation of $10 million toward transitional housing for recovering addicts, with an emphasis on housing for youth ages 15 to 24.
“It’s critically important that we pull out all the stops to halt the spread of heroin,” LaValle said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal, released in January, sets aside $141 million in spending to address the growing heroin epidemic, up $6 million from this year’s budget. Initiatives in the governor’s budget include family support navigators to provide resources and information to individuals seeking treatment and their families, adolescent clubhouses for at-risk and recovering teenagers and young adults, funding for synthetic drug testing and six more recovery community and outreach centers.
His budget also proposes $7 million of that funding to be allocated toward 300 new beds in treatment centers.
The final budget, which is bound to an April 1 deadline by the state constitution, will be hammered out by Cuomo and legislative leaders from both houses in the coming weeks. The budget has been passed on time for the past five years in a row.
The state’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
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