Hochul: Every option being considered for dealing with opioid crisis
To deal with the opioid crisis in New York, the state needs to an embrace an "all of the above" approach to find a way to keep people alive, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a visit to Batavia on Thursday.
Hochul was in town for a ribbon cutting at the new methodone clinic at GCASA. During her remarks Hochul talked about how the opioid crisis has led to tragedy in her own family, with a dose of heroin laced with fentanyl claiming the life of her nephew.
In an short interview after her remarks, Hochul said an "all of the above" approach could include consideration of safe injection sites. She was a little more vague about whether the state would consider following Portugal's lead, which decriminalized drug possession 18 years ago and established a program to help addicts find meaningful work, and as a result cut addiction rates in half and reduced overdose deaths to 30 to 50 a year, about 1/50th the rate of the United States. Prior to 2001, Portugal was known as the heroin capital of Europe.
"I don’t know we’re prepared to say anything about following a particular model," Hochul said. "We are considering all options is all I can say. If people have ideas, please bring them forward."
During her remarks, Hochul talked about her role, along with other state officials, of crisscrossing the state, meeting with residents and people on the frontlines of the opioid crisis. The result was legislation that not only led to the $850,000 grant to build the methodone clinic at GCASA but was recently amended to allow for medical marijuana to treat chronic pain. The legislation also attempts to eliminate the waiting time for an addict to get into treatment.
"We’re trying to figure out how do we stop people from dying literally in the streets and in their homes," Hochul told The Batavian.
Besides the methadone clinic, guests at the ribbon cutting were able to tour a new mobile treatement clinic that will allow GCASA staff to travel throughout the region and meet with addicts where they live, eliminating the need for them to travel to Batavia. It is important to note, the mobile clinic will not include a methadone dispensary, which by law must be at the approved facility in Batavia.
"That is why this is such a hopeful day for me," Hochul said while discussing the changes at GCASA. "To see what we can bring here, a new facility, an expansion, a mobile unit, which may look like an RV, recreational vehicle, but to me that’s a recovery vehicle."
Thursday, the governor's office also announced $900,000 in funding for 17 detox beds at GCASA. Director John Bennett showed off floor plans for a new detox facility on the East Main Street property.
"We often talk about going to treatment but we forget that before you can go into treatment, you have to go through detox," said Arlene González-Sánchez, commissioner of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. "Detox is really critical. Detrox is not treatment. It is the beginning of treatment and we’re so happy that we’re able to say that we will be able to have some detox beds in this whole region."
Brian Paris, president of the GCASA board, praised Bennett and the rest of the GCASA staff for their hard work in helping to establish the methadone clinic, the mobile unit, and soon the detox facility.
"We live in a changing world and GCASA is changing to support that changing world," Paris said.
Hochul's nephew, she said, started on his path to addiction after being prescribed painkillers when he cut his hand on a meat slicing machine in a delicatessen where he was working.
"That led to addiction, led to the streets, led to a decade of putting his mother and our family through hell as he tried to find a path forward," Hochul said.
The family thought he was past his addiction and on the right path. He was a graduate student at University of Buffalo and a mentor to others trying to kick the habit. After he broke up with a girlfriend he slipped and tried one dose and died as a result.
"Be proud that your state has not run from this problem," Hochul said. "We have leaned into this problem."
NOTE: I took pictures of the ribbon cutting. I thought I imported those pictures in PhotoShop (Lightroom). I reformatted the card for another assignment and discovered later I hadn't imported the pictures. They are lost. My apologies to those involved.
I read yesterday news out of Portland, Ore., that said after a lengthy hiatus the deadly scourge of the '80s and '90s, methamphetamine, is making a ferocious comeback out West, tracking eastward, and that the majority of heroin deaths there are showing meth in the system along with the heroin laced with fentanyl. Speedball on steroids. The users are attempting it seems to temper the strength of the downer or vice-versa.
Not to mention that now meth is so pure, utterly cheap and way too easy to get.
Ms. Sanchez is on target with providing more detox facilities. Also, more physicians must be able to provide Suboxone treatment so addicts can get away from the toxic and fatal drugs being sold on the street.