Opioid funds to aid recovery programs 1

Attorney General Tish James, center right, toured New York with other elected officials throughout the state and announced that she will redistribute opioid settlement funds.

Attorney General Tish James is delivering on her promise to use settlement money from medical companies to give back to the communities that have been devastated by the opioid crisis.

While at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx during a statewide tour Monday, James announced that she would deliver upwards of $1.5 billion to the New York communities most impacted by the abuse of the painkillers.

From June to September, James worked with other state attorneys general to prevent the further sales of opioids from Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen, the Sackler family and foundations, and most recently Endo Health Solutions.

James was able to earmark a minimum of $140,173,322.11 to a maximum of $256,458,972.37 for New York City, depending on how many localities across the state agree to individual settlements with the firms.

“For more than two decades, New Yorkers have experienced the dire and deadly effects of opioids, but today we are starting the process of delivering up to $1.5 billion to New York’s 62 counties to help our communities rebuild,” said James in a statement. “Today, we begin to heal New York with these funds that will help turn the tide on the opioid crisis. As we embark on a tour across the state, we are ensuring every region and every county gets financial help to recover from the devastation that opioids have inflicted on them.”

The funds will be used to support treatment, recovery and abatement efforts, according to James’ office, in an earlier statement during the summer.

“Ensuring funds recovered from opioid settlements and litigation go where they’re needed — to fund prevention, education, and treatment programs — is a massive step in our efforts to end the opioid epidemic and provide justice to its victims,” said James in June.

President and CEO Mitchell Netburn of Samaritan Daytop Village, one of the state’s largest behavioral health service providers, was thankful for the attorney general’s efforts to help those impacted by the opioid crisis.

“Every day we witness the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic on individuals, their families, and the communities throughout the 10 counties we serve,” said Netburn. “This crisis is worsening every day, so I also applaud Attorney General James for rapidly distributing these funds to organizations that can help turn the tide of this horrific epidemic — we do not have a second to lose.”

Samaritan Daytop Village has locations in Briarwood (138-02 Queens Blvd.) and Jamaica (144-10 Jamaica Ave.), and along with its staff helping people with addiction it also has services for the homeless, veterans, seniors, people with mental health needs, individuals with multiple health problems and families that are struggling, according to the organization.

Across the Big Apple, approximately 6,800 people have died from drug overdoses since 2010, according to a Spectrum News NY1 opioids report in May.

Unintentional drug overdoses killed 70,000 Americans in 2017, according to a NewYork-Presbyterian report.

“In the United States, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death, with opioids being involved in nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths,” said U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). “And the numbers of Americans killed by the opioid epidemic over the past two decades is a staggering 800,000 people. The effort to hold corporations accountable for the opioid epidemic has been led by the states, counties, tribes, and cities hit hardest by the crisis.”

NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Manhattan has teamed up with the Relay program, an initiative of HealingNYC, a comprehensive city program working to tackle the opioid crisis.

Once a patient who has experienced an opioid overdose arrives in an emergency department and Relay is called, a “wellness advocate,” or peer, who has had personal experience with substance abuse arrives within the hour, according to NewYork-Presbyterian. These advocates offer patients everything from naloxone kits to keep on hand, referrals, medication-assisted treatments like methadone and buprenorphine to social services such as housing, food assistance or health insurance. Patients can work with the wellness advocate for up to 90 days.

To consult an expert on drug addiction from NewYork-Presbyterian call 1 (877) 697-9355.

“The opioid crisis has devastated our communities for far too long,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Corona). “While drug abuse is a complex issue, it is time that the pharmaceutical companies — that have profited hand over fist while New York state families have suffered — are finally held accountable.”

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) agrees.

“Nothing can undo the damage wrought or bring back the lives we’ve lost to this epidemic,” said Hevesi. “However, this is a step toward accountability, and the investment in our communities who have been particularly affected will go a long way in mitigating this harm and preventing further loss of life.”

The pandemic has worsened the drug crisis, according to Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside).

“The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated the opioid epidemic in the United States, resulting in a record breaking number of overdose deaths across the nation this past year,” said Braunstein.

Experts say that 90,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020 after the March government shutdown that year, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that is fighting for a higher-performing healthcare system for low-income people, the uninsured and people of color.

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