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Special Siena College Poll: How Stakeholders See The Opioid Epidemic

Composite photo Dave Lucas/WAMC & Be.Futureproof/Flickr
Capital Region law enforcement officials have long been aware of the seriousness of the opioid scourge.

Earlier this year, the Siena College Research Institute conducted a four-part poll that took a comprehensive look at the scope of the opioid crisis in New York. Today Siena is out with an addendum.

The four-part poll finds nearly six of 10 Capital Region residents were impacted by the opioid epidemic, and one in four people said they know someone who has died of an opioid overdose.

Pollster Don Levy notes that for this survey, Siena contacted 612 Capital Region professionals from the fields of mental health, social services, medicine, law enforcement, and education.    "And we found that even more so than the general public, they see the opioid crisis as an epidemic."

88 percent of professionals say the opioid crisis has gotten worse, while 51 percent believe the worst is yet to come. Levy says they don't feel like they're doing enough.   "They give the most difficult grades to people that are in the medical field. They call attention to the fact that they believe that medical professionals are not adequately being trained in addressing opioid abuse and addiction, still a problem with inappropriate prescription, and they call for more action there."

Siena's findings show that while 54 percent of the general public have been personally touched by the opioid epidemic, among professionals, 87 percent have themselves or have a family member, friend or someone their organization serves that has suffered from opioid abuse. Levy says 94 percent of the professionals surveyed call for increased funding for treatment. So while they think existing treatment programs are effective... "...they'd like to see funding in place that allows people to be treated longer. In fact, over half of them say that people should be in treatment for six months or more, and they'd like to see more effective follow-up, and allow people to be in treatment longer, so they call for a great deal more funding there."

The survey breaks it down: after considering four other strategies to address opioid abuse, these professionals would allocate 37 percent of all funding to treatment, 22 percent to addressing root causes, 17 percent to education and awareness, 12 percent to enforcement and 12 percent to litigation and regulation. Sixty percent cite patients not being in treatment long enough and 55 percent cite poor follow-up as barriers to treatment.  Fifty-five percent say the average person should be in treatment at least 6 months — and 73 percent say that insurance does not cover the cost of enough treatment.

And Levy points out that a majority of those surveyed say neither lawmakers nor medical providers are effective in combatting opioid abuse.  "People who are professionals in the field don't feel as though our legislature is adequately addressing the problem. Law enforcement, while they're about split on how effective law enforcement is in stopping the flow, they do concur they'd like to see more funding given there. What we really see is that these people who work trying to address this crisis on a daily basis say that we've gotta be collaborative, we've gotta have these various entities work together to address the crisis. And over half of them unfortunately say, it's getting worse before it's getting better."

The Siena College Poll was conducted online April 10 - May 4, 2018 through an invited sample of 612 Capital Region professionals from the fields of mental health, social services, medicine, law enforcement, and education.  It has an overall margin of error of +4.0 percentage points.

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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