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In Albany, Sen. Schumer launches new effort to counter opioid epidemic

Speaking at the Addictions Care Center of Albany,  Senator Chuck Schumer raised the alarm over a new wave of overdose deaths.
Dave Lucas
Speaking at the Addictions Care Center of Albany, Senator Chuck Schumer raised the alarm over a new wave of overdose deaths.

With opioid deaths on the rise across Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer Counties, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is launching a plan to beef up addiction services and fight the flow of drugs into the area.

Speaking at the Addictions Care Center of Albany Monday, Schumer raised the alarm over a new wave of overdose deaths.

“We need more federal help. We're desperately short of the kinds of facilities we have here at the Addiction Care Center. Overall, in the Capital Region, we've seen two years of record setting years of opioid deaths," said Schumer. "In 2020, there were 165 fentanyl deaths. That's the last year we have data, there are only 120 were recorded in the region between January and September of 2021. So obviously, it's higher. And that means 300 deaths in the last two years. That means just about every other day. Often a young person dies of opioids, here, and that's their loss. It's a loss of our society because they're not in it anymore, and they could be producing and helping, but it's also a loss to their families and their friends and it leaves a hole in the world. “

Keith Stack is CEO of the Addictions Care Center of Albany. “Overdoses and deaths from overdoses are on the rise," Stack said. "You know, we seem to have been making some headway prior to 2020. But just the isolation forced by COVID created real problems and again, illicit fentanyl is today's problem and is really driving the opioid epidemic.”

According to Schumer, in 2021 EMS in Albany County administered the opioid overdose reversing drug Naloxone over 500 times, Rensselaer nearly 200 times and in Schenectady over 250 times.

The New York Democrat announced a two-pronged response plan.

“First, I am calling on a historic $3.2 billion increase in funding for the National Drug Control Program agencies in the upcoming budget," Schumer said. "I fought hard to get an increase to combat the opioid crisis in the American Rescue Plan, we got $1.5 billion for a Community Mental Health Block Grant, and $1.5 billion for the Substance Abuse Treatment Block Grant, which are sent to organizations like the Addictions Care Center, but the crisis isn’t over, as anyone who works here can tell you.”

The second part of Schumer's plan involves convincing the Office of National Drug Control Policy to accept Schenectady and Rensselaer Counties' requests to become designated High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas approved, which he says will stop major drug traffickers in their tracks.

“I want to promise the people of the Capital Region I'm going to use all the clout I've got as majority leader to get this increase in funding and to see that a good share of it flows here to the Capital Region,” said Schumer.

Schumer says he already has spoken to the White House about his intentions, but points out "Congress has the purse."

WAMC has reached out to the Office of National Drug Control Policy for comment.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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