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opioid epidemic

October 7, 2021 - 12:24pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, Ways & Means, opioid epidemic.

opioid_image_1.jpgA Genesee County legislator believes that county departments dealing with substance use issues -- whether in the form of education, prevention, treatment or enforcement – should be first in line to receive money awarded to the municipality through New York State’s settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Speaking at Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, Marianne Clattenburg said any list of ways to spend the $1 million or so expected to be distributed to Genesee County should start with initiatives supporting county units, such as the Youth Bureau, Mental Health and the Sheriff’s Office.

“This isn’t really that much money. And I think between the Youth Bureau, and their prevention efforts, and Mental Health and the issues that have arrived, especially with children and therapies that are going on because they’re dealing with drug abuse of parents and foster parents (would be the best use of the funds).”

Clattenburg said substance use and its effect upon other areas of society warrant immediate attention.

“I think there’s enough need inside the county that those stakeholders need to be focused on – those dollars staying in the county before we talk about other agencies …” she said. “I’m just concerned that outside agencies … are already asking how much money they’re going to get from this.”

County Manager Matt Landers responded by saying that representatives of Genesee County Mental Health, Sheriff’s Office, Public Health and Youth Bureau would be on the committee.

In a story posted on The Batavian on Monday, Landers said that Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, an outside agency that receives some funding from the county, and possibly other non-county organizations, will be involved.

Contacted today, he said the committee “will be weighted in favor of Genesee County departments," but will include John Bennett, GCASA executive director.

“It’s a fluid process,” Landers said. “As we move forward, we may see more partners to bring to the table.”

He said the first committee meeting is scheduled for later this month.

Ways & Means Committee members were asked to consider a resolution approving a proposed settlement with McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Corporation, and their multiple subsidiaries – the “Big 3 Distributors” – that could result in the county receiving anywhere from $1,055,674 to $1,864,833, with payments made over 18 years.

County Attorney Kevin Earl said the New York City law firm of Napoli Shkolnik, which is representing municipalities across the state, “brought a number of actions not only against the people who manufacture the opioids, but the distributors – claiming that they violated certain laws by not accounting for where this stuff was going. In other words, they contributed to the proliferation of the opioid crisis.”

Earl said the monetary amount depends upon how many communities participate in the class action proceedings.

“Just like the other (Johnson & Johnson) settlement, (it comes) with a sliding scale,” he said. “The more people that … sign on to join the settlement, the more Big 3 Distributors are willing to pay because their exposure lessens. The likelihood is pretty high that we will get the high end of the settlement.”

Funds received have to be targeted toward substance use treatment, prevention, training and enforcement, he added.

“Within those categories, there is some flexibility but we can’t spend the money for water funds or bridge funds.”

While Earl said this money is addition to funds from the J&J settlement, it is unclear exactly how much the county will receive at this point.

Landers said he and Earl will be speaking with the attorneys representing the county in this matter to determine the dollar figure, but estimates an award of at least $1.3 million.

The county manager said the plan is to meet with all stakeholders and make recommendations that would be forwarded to the legislature.

The first payment is expected in February 2022, Earl said.

Previously: NYS AG reports that Genesee County is in line for up to $1 million in opioid settlement funding

July 20, 2021 - 5:07pm

Update: July 24, 9:30 a.m.

Comment from Anne Constantino, president and CEO of Horizon Health Services, which has an office in Batavia:

“We are grateful to the Attorney General for her success in this settlement that will absolutely deliver much needed resources in our efforts to prevent, combat and treat the serious public health crisis of addiction.”

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The executive director of a local substance use prevention and treatment agency is hailing today’s announcement that four major pharmaceutical distributors are close to an agreement to pay out $26 billion to states and municipalities for their roles in perpetuating the nation’s opioid epidemic.

“Yes, this is welcome news and I’m just hoping the money ends up going to assist individuals and families struggling with opioid addiction,” said John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “It definitely is needed to stabilize the treatment system that has been impacted negatively by the recent pandemic.”

According to multiple media outlets, Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen are near a deal that would resolve multiple legal challenges as well as pay for prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the United States.

Genesee County Attorney Kevin Earl said it will be awhile before it is known how much money will be allocated locally.

The New York City law firm of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC is representing Genesee County as well as several other counties, Earl said.

“Most of the particulars are up in the air right now,” Earl said. “The county has retained this law firm to represent us in the litigation and they have advised us of the settlement with three of the distributors and Johnson & Johnson, but it’s too early to tell what Genesee County or any other participant in the litigation will get.”

A published report in today’s online edition of The New York Times indicates that the pact has yet to be finalized and “could still fall apart or have significant changes.”

The Times’ story also included the following:

-- According to lawyers familiar with negotiations, Johnson & Johnson, which made an opioid painkiller and a fentanyl patch and supplied opium-based ingredients to other drug manufacturers, would pay $3.7 billion in the first three years and $1.3 billion over the next six years. It had already shut down its supply business and discontinued its opioids, and agreed to refrain from selling opioids.

-- The distributors as well as several manufacturers are in the midst of a trial in a case brought by the State of New York and two of its counties. This morning, Letitia James, the attorney general for New York, announced a $1.1 billion deal with the distributors to settle that case. That money would be a part of the overall $26 billion settlement, but so far, it is the only deal that has been formally agreed to. Payments to New York State could begin in two months, Ms. James said.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said he was “fairly certain” that the money awarded to the county is for specific purposes, unlike the tobacco settlement, which gave counties more leeway to use the money for general operations.

“This money would have to go towards specifically combatting opioids,” he said. “So, it would lead to us partnering with agencies in the community to help deliver these services – agencies such as GCASA and others.”

Marcus Molinaro, president of the New York State County Executives Association, said in a press release that the settlement “comes at a crucial moment as counties across the state and nation grapple with a startling resurgence in overdose deaths.”

“No amount of money can bring back the lives lost to the opioid epidemic, but it can honor those lost by investing in prevention, education and treatment services to save lives,” he said.

“New York’s county executives were proud to work in collaboration with Attorney General Letitia James to pass legislation creating an Opioid Settlement Fund to ensure those most responsible for plunging us into this crisis, and not local taxpayers, pay for treatment, recovery, and abatement efforts critical to defeating this deadly scourge.”

April 18, 2019 - 3:04pm

Press release:

As the opioid epidemic continues to distress our community, local agencies are coming together to offer more services to those in need.

“Last fall, 24 counties in New York State, including Genesee, that are deemed ‘opioid burdened’ received funds from the CDC and New York State Department of Health to take local action to address the epidemic,” said Paul Pettit, Public Health director for Genesee and Orleans counties.

“After looking at our current services and speaking with local partners we wanted to launch an innovative program we learned about a few months earlier during a GOW Opioid Task Force meeting where Police Chief Volkman from Chatham spoke about the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative, more easily known as PAARI (pronounced PARR-REE).

"Using the funding to bring the successful approach of this program from Chatham into Genesee, will allow those who want to get into substance use treatment a 24/7 opportunity by going to one of the partnering first-responder agencies for help.”

The PAARI program will launch locally on Tuesday, April 23rd.

It will allow anyone who wants help with their addiction to walk into any police station or the city fire station and get the help they need. The program is supported by City of Batavia Police, City of Batavia Fire Department, Le Roy Police, and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

“The funds will help pay for overtime that will likely be incurred by staff of Public Safety agencies, as well as help pay for peer recovery coaches from Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA) that will be contacted once a person seeking treatment walks through the door," Pettit said.

"GCASA is an equally important partner in this, as they have hired the peer recovery coaches, who have been trained in providing services in the community early after receiving these funds.

"The peers will work with each individual and identify where they can go for the proper services,regardless of if it’s local or not, and make sure they get there. Ultimately, being a support in that moment and in the future, too. This program highlights the commitment and collaboration of our community partners to help address this crisis.”

GC Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. agrees with Pettit regarding the collaboration of our first responders and the commitment to help address the opioid epidemic.

“This is a good collaboration between police, fire and the public," Sheron said. "I fully support the program and hope it will help people get the treatment services they need.”

For more information or for immediate help, please call GCASA’s peer services hotline at (585) 815-1800.

March 19, 2019 - 2:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GOW opioid task force, opioid epidemic, news, notify.

blondellopioid2019.jpg

There is a lot of attention paid to opioid addiction treatment, Dr. Richard Blondell told an audience at the City Church Generation Center in Batavia today, but not enough effort is given to preventing addiction in the first place.

"The bottom line of this opioid epidemic is we cannot treat our way out of this epidemic," Blondell said. "We cannot incarcerate out of this epidemic. We can't legislate our way out of this epidemic. What we really have to do is prevention."

Blondell is vice chair of addiction medicine and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at SUNY Buffalo. He spoke today at a workshop for faith leaders sponsored by the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force.

Drawing on science, history and statistics, Blondell made the case that it's very difficult to successfully treat somebody for opioid addiction; therefore, to end the current epidemic, society needs to produce fewer addicts.

That begins with doctors, he said but includes families and individuals who need to be more aware and better educated about addiction and prevention.

The causes of addiction are both genetic and environmental, Blondell said.

About 10 percent of the population is genetically susceptible to opioid addiction. Those people, when exposed to opioids, usually through prescription medication, are much likely to become addicts.

The addiction for them is a disease.

An addict has about a 5 percent chance of dying in any given year. 

"The average life expectancy of a heroin addict is about 10 years, most are gone in 20," Blondell said.

Much of the blame for the opioid epidemic can be placed on Arthur M. Sackler, a medical marketing executive in the 1950s who, among other things, introduced the world to Valium, the first multimillion drug.

"It didn't treat anything actually," Bondell said. "Even though Valium was the number one prescribed drug in the country it was not clear what disease it treated."

The Sackler family went on to own Perdue Pharma, the company that introduced OxyContin. 

That pain pill was sold to doctors as non-addictive if used for pain.

Then the insurance companies got involved, Blondell said. They stopped funding pain-management regimes, which could cost thousands of dollars but were effective, in favor of prescription pain medications. And if doctors didn't prescribe enough pain pills, they would get low patient satisfaction scores from patients who said, "he didn't do anything for my pain."  

Doctors started prescribing opioid-based pain medications "like skittles," Blondell said.

Patients who become addicted to pain pills often, usually, turn to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to get. About 75 percent of heroin addicts started with a prescription to either the addict himself or to a friend or family member.

There are two types of treatment for addicts, neither high success rates -- counseling or medication.

In counseling, an addict receives psychological therapy, or they might live in a home and where they can learn adult life skills but if they are physically addicted, brain condition related to addiction is not treated. That is where medication, such as methadone, come in.

Blondell said all treatment methods should continue but that isn't the final answer on the epidemic. We've never treated our way out of an epidemic, he said.

People who say addiction is a choice really don't understand opioid addiction, Blondell said.  

Everybody is addicted to something. Addiction is essential to survival. We're all addicted, for example, to water.

But what substances, such as illicit drugs and alcohol do, is trick the brain into thinking that substance is a higher priority than other addictions, such as food.

"So people say to me, this is a behavior," Blondell said. "It's not really a mental illness or it's not a disease. It's not a disorder. It's really just a behavioral problem. To which my question is, what organ in the body produces behavior? Is it the kidneys? Is it the liver? No, it's the brain. So it's the brain that produces the behavior that we see and pass judgment on."

If we're going to end the epidemic, Blondell said, doctors need to be more cautious and judicious in when and how they prescribe pain medications. Patients who receive them need to be better educated about taking the prescribed amount for only a short period of time. Parents need to ensure they control the distribution of pain medication to their teen children, and ensure they actually take them when dispensed so they're not hoarded so five or six can be taken at a time. Everybody needs to be better educated about the nature of addiction and how to avoid it.

October 30, 2018 - 5:58pm

On Wednesday, Nov. 7, the Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School welcomes the public to a panel discussion about the nationwide opioid epidemic. The event features experts in the field of addiction, as well as an opioid addiction survivor.

“The alarming thing about opioid abuse is how ubiquitous it has become,” said Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School Principal Pat McGee. “We are not just inviting our students and their families. Opioid addiction does not discriminate and we encourage all members of our community to join us and learn how to identify or avoid opioid abuse. We are, quite literally, trying to save lives.”

This event is free and open to the public.

Panelists will discuss recent developments regarding the availability and danger of opioids and will address audience questions. The panel will be moderated by GCASA Executive Director John Bennett and Assistant Director of Prevention Sherri Bensley.

Additional panelists include Allison Parry-Gurak from the GOW Opioid Taskforce, Byron-Bergen Student Resource Officer Matt Butler, prevention educator Gina Henry, and a guest speaker with firsthand experience overcoming opioid addiction.

The panel is hosted by the Byron-Bergen Central School District and conducted by the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA). It will take place Wednesday, Nov. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Jr./Sr. High School Auditorium, located at 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen.

May 18, 2018 - 10:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, opioid epidemic.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27), member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, applauded the advancement of 40 bills out of the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees to help combat the opioid crisis. Collins worked with his colleagues to address two specific problems related to the opioid epidemic, the over-prescription of opioids and fraud.

Collins worked with Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) and Congressman Peter Welch (VT-At Large) to author an amendment that passed the Energy and Commerce Committee that improves the quality of care Medicaid patients receive.

Their bipartisan work will require states to identify and address inappropriate prescribing and billing practices under Medicaid to decrease the likelihood that an excess of these drugs will make their way into communities.

“We’ve seen the devastating impacts of the opioid epidemic in every community across our nation,” Collins said. “These harmful drugs can fundamentally change who you are and rob you of your ambition, dreams, and dignity. It is our responsibility to do everything we can to prevent addiction from happening in the first place, which is why we need more reporting and accountability from the state level.”

“The opioid crisis is devastating families in San Diego and across the country. We need to do more to address the root causes of the epidemic,” Rep. Peters said “This amendment, led by Rep. Collins, Rep. Welch and me, will help identify patterns of overprescribing and inappropriate billing through Medicaid by using data already collected by states. Most important, it will direct states to remedy any practices that indicate abuse and help reduce the likelihood that opioids reach our communities.”

“Families and communities in Vermont are struggling with the scourge of opioid addiction,” Welch said. “To contain this epidemic, the federal government must have a multi-prong strategy that includes attacking the root cause of overprescribing. Our bipartisan legislation requires state Medicaid programs identify and educate outlier providers writing an excessive number of opioid prescriptions.”

Additionally, Collins co-authored a bipartisan piece of legislation that stops payments from Medicare prescription drug programs if a pharmacy is being investigated for fraud by the Inspector General. This bill, The SENIOR Communities Protection Act, was reported favorably from the Ways and Means Committee.

Collins added: “If there is any suspicion of a person fraudulently prescribing opioids, we must quickly take action and get to the bottom of the situation before providing any compensation. There are so many factors that have contributed to the opioid epidemic, and I’m proud of the meticulous work that we have done to address all of these issues in order to prevent over-prescription and fraud.”

For more information on yesterday’s Energy and Commerce Committee hearing and to read a copy of the amendment by Reps. Collins, Peters and Welch, click here. For more information on H.R. 5676, The SENIOR Communities Protection Act, click here.

May 10, 2018 - 2:51pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, chris collins, opioid epidemic.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27), member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, applauded yesterday’s advancement of 25 bills out of the Committee to help combat the opioid crisis. Collins championed three of these pieces of legislation that will head to the House floor.

“The opioid epidemic is impacting every community across America and we have to take action in order to save lives,” Collins said. “We have seen far too many innocent lives lost and families torn apart because of addiction. I’m hopeful that this package of bills will help individuals get the treatment they need and give communities the resources required to stop this epidemic in its tracks.”

Collins joined fellow New Yorker, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries in introducing the Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2017 that would require the Surgeon General to report to Congress the public health effects of the rise of synthetic drug use by 12 to 18-year-olds. Currently, Congress does not have sufficient information to craft the unique types of public health and law enforcement approaches that could save our nation’s children from these dangerous substances. 

Collins also introduced the Eliminating Opioid Related Infectious Diseases Act of 2018 with Congressman Leonard Lance, Congressman Joseph Kennedy, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congressman Joe Barton, and Congresswoman Doris Matsui that focuses specifically on how the opioid epidemic has contributed to an increase in infectious diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. Increased monitoring and education will lead to a better understanding of the impacts that this crisis is having on public health.

Finally, Collins introduced legislation with Congressman Eric Paulson, Congressman Ron Kind, and Congressman Connor Lamb that would require Medicare to send an annual notice to Part D patients about the adverse effects associated with prolonged opioid use. By improving awareness and education, the Medicare Clear Health Options in Care for Enrollees (CHOICE) Act will help patients be more inclined to watch for the warning signs of addiction and be more informed to talk with their doctors on their options for pain management.

The additional bills focus on helping patients receive treatment and making sure these drugs do not get into the wrong hands. The Committee has identified issues with enforcement, prevention, and coverage within Medicare, and the additional legislation provides solutions that will address these areas.

A background memo, electronic copies of the legislation, and live stream of the markup can be found online here. The Committee plans to hold a second markup on opioid legislation on Thursday, May 17.

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