The 24-member coalition of U.S. Representatives cited recent evidence that prescription drug abuse is a growing problem from Long Island to New York City to Buffalo, consistent with national trends. Statewide, the number of prescriptions for all narcotic painkillers has increased by nearly six million, from 16.6 million in 2007 to 22.5 million in 2010.
“In urban, suburban, rural, upstate and downstate New York, prescription drug abuse is an epidemic that is reshaping our definition of addiction, and one that demands the attention of our communities, law enforcement officials, and legislators,” the Congress members wrote in the letter. “The Attorney General’s I-STOP legislation is the solution New York State needs to begin tackling the prescription drug epidemic head on. On behalf of families across the state, we urge you to pass this legislation before another life is lost.”
The co-chairs of the group pushing for Attorney General Schneiderman’s plan, Republican Michael Grimm of Staten Island, and Democrat Brian Higgins of Buffalo, represent two of the hardest hit communities in the state. Deaths linked to overdoses of prescription drugs jumped 59 percent in Erie and Niagara Counties from 2003 to 2009, while overdose fatalities spiked 147 percent on Staten Island from 2005 to 2009.
The bipartisan coalition argues that Schneiderman’s I-STOP bill is the right solution to the problem because it will “assist in patient care, and also help crack down on ‘doctor shopping’ … and stop those who enable and profit off of the illegitimate use of prescribed drugs.”
Attorney General Schneiderman thanked his colleagues, saying, “Leadership at every level of government is required to protect our communities from the crisis of prescription drug addiction, and I am grateful for this bipartisan show of support from New York’s House delegation. The time is now to streamline communication between health care providers and pharmacists to better serve patients, stop prescription drug trafficking, and provide treatment to those who are addicted. Inaction is not an option.”
Support from New York’s bipartisan Congressional coalition comes in the wake of major endorsements for the Attorney General’s I-STOP plan in recent weeks, including those from U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, New York State Association of PBA's, and the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers, Inc.
The complete text of the letter is below.
January 31, 2012New York State Assembly New York State Senate
Albany, New York 12248 Albany, New York 12247
Members of the New York State Legislature,
We are writing to bring your attention to a dangerous and growing crisis affecting families in every corner of this state. In urban, suburban, rural, upstate and downstate New York, prescription drug abuse is an epidemic that is reshaping our definition of addiction, and one that demands the attention of our communities, law enforcement officials, and legislators.
Between 2007 and 2010, the rates of admission to treatment programs for prescription drug abuse increased by 45 percent. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drug abuse is the country’s second most prevalent illegal drug problem, and recent reports and studies have documented corresponding data trends in New York State. For example:
- Oxycodone prescriptions increased by 66 percent in New York City from 2007 to 2009;
- In Buffalo, New York’s largest methadone clinic outside of New York City, is reorganizing its service to accommodate an increase in care needed to treat the growing number of addicted mothers and their newborns;
- On Long Island, both crisis and non-crisis admissions to drug treatment that involve opiates other than heroin and cocaine have increased at alarming rates. And between 2004 and 2009, the number of deaths due to the toxic effects of prescription opioids more than tripled in Nassau County.
In addition to providing health care providers and pharmacists with centralized information to avoid overprescribing, I-STOP will result in preventing drug trafficking as well as identifying and treat patients who seek to abuse prescription drugs. This much-needed enhancement of the state’s prescription drug monitoring program will assist in patient care, and also help crack down on ‘doctor shopping,’ the practice of frequenting several different doctors and pharmacies for prescription drugs. With real-time information, physicians and pharmacists will have the necessary tools to track potential abuses, and stop those who enable and profit off of the illegitimate use of prescribed drugs.
I-STOP would also require practitioners, pharmacists and law enforcement officials to complete continuing education programs on the proper uses of the substance reporting system. The proposed legislation prohibits the disclosure of all the data collected in the online database, unless authorized by law.
The Attorney General’s I-STOP legislation is the solution New York State needs to begin tackling the prescription drug epidemic head on. On behalf of families across the state, we urge you to pass this legislation before another life is lost.
Rep. Michael Grimm
Rep. Brian Higgins
Rep. Louise Slaughter
Rep. Richard Hanna
Rep. Kathleen Hochul
Rep. Peter King
Rep. Paul Tonko
Rep. Maurice Hinchey
Rep. Jerrold Nadler
Rep. Tim Bishop
Rep. Yvette Clarke
Rep. Charles Rangel
Rep. Bob Turner
Rep. Steve Israel
Rep. Edolphus Towns
Rep. José Serrano
Rep. Carolyn Maloney
Rep. Joe Crowley
Rep. Gary Ackerman
Rep. Gregory Meeks
Rep. Nydia Velázquez
Rep. Nita Lowey
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Rep. Eliot Engel