As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be fought, awareness of another epidemic affecting New Yorkers has returned to the attention of lawmakers in Albany, New York.
The New York State Assembly recently passed legislation aiming to create the Opioid Settlement Fund, ensuring that funding obtained from settlements involving opioid manufacturers, distributors, and other entities involved in the perpetration of the opioid crisis are used to fight substance use disorders, comorbid psychological disorders, and mitigate the other impacts of the opioid epidemic.
“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating effect on so many families and communities across New York State,” said New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Opioid Settlement Fund. “This fund will give New York State the ability to put settlements from those who perpetuated and contributed to the opioid epidemic to work helping those who struggle with its effects and with substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders.”
In New York state, between the years of 2010 and 2017, the total number of opioid overdose deaths increased by two hundred percent – from 1,074 to a staggering 3,224. The Opioid Settlement Fund will consist of all future settlement funds that New York state acquires from the many various legal actions against those that took a part in creating the modern-day opioid epidemic.
“The Assembly Majority is committed to getting New Yorkers struggling with addiction the treatments and services they need,” Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee Chair and New York State Assembly Member Phil Steck stated. “Our communities and families have been ravaged by the opioid epidemic. By creating the Opioid Settlement Fund, we will ensure the money from these settlements goes to programs and services that provide support for prevention programs and those who are struggling with substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders.”
In 2017 alone, New York state saw 12,378 emergency department visits caused by an opioid overdose. The funding in the Opioid Settlement Fund will be used to assist New York state in the fight against substance use disorders, including funding for treatment and recovery programs, substance use disorder prevention, treatment programs for co-occurring mental illnesses, and public education campaigns to combat the ongoing epidemic.
“Too many lives have been devastated because of the disease of addiction. Too many parents have lost children to the disease of opioid addiction. By creating the Opioid Settlement Fund, and establishing a statewide board of experts to recommend programs to invest in, the Legislature will ensure that funds recovered by New York from the manufacturers of these harmful drugs are invested in effective services to prevent addiction, reduce harm from addiction, and sustain people in recovery,” noted New York State Assembly Member Carrie Woerner of the legislation. “We will keep working to help New Yorkers that are living with addiction and substance use disorders, and ensure they have the tools and resources they need.”
The legislation passed by the New York State Assembly will also create an advisory board that will focus on providing recommendations to the legislature on what kinds of programs and services should be included and/or eliminated from the list of eligible expenditures. The new legislation aims to ensure that no future funding will be used to supplant or replace any current state or federal funds that would be used for substance use disorder prevention, treatment, or recovery services.
As part of the legislation, the commissioners of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), the Office of Mental Health (OMH), the Department of Health (DOH) and Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) will also be required to send reports to the legislature regarding how the funding is expended and the efficiency of the programs and services supported by the funding.