As the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, New York senators are imploring Gov. Andrew Cuomo to expend more money to improve treatment services as the opioid epidemic continues to worsen.
Outside the Lexington Center for Recovery in Peekskill last Tuesday, Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro), along with Senators Timothy Kennedy and David Carlucci, called for funds stemming from the federal government’s $8 million Purdue Pharma opioid settlement to go toward improving treatment services statewide.
Officials also requested a portion of any future stimulus pandemic relief funds be applied to helping treatment facilities offer those in need with the necessary resources to recover.
“Because our treatment providers are in dire need of financial support, funding from both the Purdue settlement and the next round of federal stimulus is a must,” said Harckham, who is the chair of the senate committee on alcoholism and substance abuse. “This is money that should go to providing vital, lifesaving services, and not to fill potholes or to fill the general fund.”
Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges for conspiracy to defraud the function of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, representing that they maintained an anti-diversion program when the company continued to market products to over 100 health care providers suspected of diverting opioids.
The company was also found guilty of facilitating the dispensing of its opioid products without a legitimate medical purpose.
Carlucci pressed that funding is needed across the state to help treatment facilities meet their goals. Whether it is necessary medicines or different treatments, Carlucci said options need to become more accessible to those who need them.
“Right now, we are at an ‘all hands-on deck’ moment,” Carlucci said. “Too many residents are slipping through the cracks, and we cannot let that happen.”
Officials noted that since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, access to treatment has been strained with 20 percent of funding withheld due to state budget constraints. As a result, they asserted new safety procedures in place at treatment centers are shrinking capacity.
Dr. Adrienne Marcus, co-founder and executive director of Lexington Center for Recovery, emphasized the difficulty her facility has experienced over the last roughly eight months. With protocol shifted to allow for curbside treatment and remote work, Marcus said extra funding could hire more staff, nurses, and counselors to combat the growing caseloads.
She added the settlement money could also provide more intensive care and the ability to treat more people. The facility is currently serving 260 patients, with the number of cases 3steadily climbing, Lexington director Debra Thomas said.
“The opioid crisis itself is enough to deal with, (and) the pandemic has clearly caused us a lot more difficulties,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to do the best that we can with all of these struggles so we can remain open.”