By Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Senator Kevin Parker
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Communities throughout New York City and across the state are all grappling with the same struggle—how do we confront the heroin crisis that is ruining lives, destroying families and crippling communities?
In New York City, heroin-related overdose deaths increased 84 percent between 2010 and 2012, after years of decline in the last decade. The rate of unintentional drug poisoning deaths in general increased from 541 to 740 (35 percent) during this same period. Nearly all (97 percent) of those deaths involved more than one substance, with heroin among the most commonly identified.
While a scourge of heroin ravaged our communities in the 1970s and 1980s, heroin addiction had leveled off or declined for decades. Now, however, the crisis has exploded again and is recognized as one of the main issues impacting our city, state and region. From Bay Ridge to Buffalo and Manhattan to Manlius, our communities and cities, and those of our neighboring states, are all trying to combat the same societal disaster.
As elected officials, we have heard from our constituents, and from grieving families throughout New York State, and we knew that major action was needed. This past December, we traveled to Albany to hold a public forum with two upstate senators to better examine and understand this multifaceted, and statewide, crisis. We heard testimony from medical and law-enforcement experts and were told heart-wrenching, personal stories of tragedy and struggle against adversity from former addicts and from family members of victims lost to this deadly and insidious drug.
While the purpose of the forum was to primarily gain information, it also served to raise public awareness about this crisis, and prod our colleagues in the legislature to act. As a result of this forum, the Senate Democratic Conference introduced a package of legislation designed to address this crisis, and specific problem areas identified by the testimony provided. Included within this package were two pieces of legislation we sponsored to combat heroin’s grasp over New York’s communities.
A bill sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery will require New York State first responders to be provided with naloxone, an essential medication used to counteract a potentially fatal overdose in progress. This legislation will mandate that all first responders keep this vital medication within their possession and will provide state funding to ensure training and equipment is readily available. It is our belief that passing this vital legislation we can help save New Yorkers who would have previously succumbed to overdoses.
Senator Kevin Parker introduced legislation to produce and disseminate a series of public service announcements, together with a strong social media campaign, to highlight the dangerous and deadly consequences of trying heroin even once. This initiative will ensure our youth are better educated about this destructive drug which should lead to lower rates of addiction and abuse, and, like the award-winning public service announcements of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, will reduce the number of young people who become addicted to this horrific drug.
These bills, in addition to other pieces of legislation sponsored by our Democratic colleagues, will provide New York State with greater tools to confront this heroin abuse crisis and better protect our communities and families. New Yorkers are demanding action from their state government and elected officials, and that is precisely what we are trying to do.
We urge our colleagues across the aisle in the Senate Republican/IDC Majority Coalition to immediately bring our bills, and all good pieces of legislation designed to protect our communities and end this heroin crisis, to the senate floor for a vote to increase the safety of our state’s youth.
* * *