Congressman Sean Maloney

Representing the 18th District of New York

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Maloney Introduces Legislation To Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

Sep 19, 2014
Press Release
Continues to Lead Fight for Increased Law Enforcement Resources to Address Epidemic

Newburgh, NY – At the Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) and local officials announced the introduction of the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Introduced with Representative Bill Foster (IL-11), this legislation would help to deter prescription drug abuse and assist individuals in receiving treatment for addiction. Since February 2014, Maloney has worked with the Office of Drug Control Policy to designate Dutchess and Putnam Counties as part of the NY/NJ High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) in order to bring additional local, state and federal law enforcement resources critical to combatting drug trafficking in the Hudson Valley.

“When I talk to law enforcement, parents, and school officials, I hear the heart wrenching stories of how the heroin and prescription drug epidemic is hurting far too many of our families, friends and neighbors,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “In addition to continuing our work with law enforcement and local community organizations, Congress needs to be a partner by expanding existing treatment programs, expanding new resources for law enforcement and increasing access to the life-saving antidote Narcan.” 

“Easy access to prescription drugs is leading too many young people down the path of addiction and opening the door to abuse of other opioids like heroin. Families in my district are being torn apart, and lives are being ruined. We must do more to combat prescription drug abuse and increase access to life saving drugs like Naloxone,” said Representative Bill Foster. “That’s why I am introducing this legislation to improve existing programs and develop additional initiatives and avenues to treat and prevent addiction.”

“Opioids have become a scourge to communities across the country,” said Senator Bill Larkin.  “As a member of the NYS Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, I have seen the devastation and hopelessness that opioid addiction can bring to families, friends and entire communities.  During the 2014 Legislative Session, the New York State Senate took action on a series of bills designed to help deal with these addictions.  I am pleased to see Congress working to address the issue from the federal level.  By working together, we can have a real impact on the lives of our constituents.”

“To-date, we offer chemical dependency and opioid treatment to over 400 patients,” said Linda S. Muller, President & CEO of The Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center. “With Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s continued support and the collaboration with Senator William Larkin, our Health Center will be able to better ensure the safety and good health of those patients struggling with addiction. Together, we hope to save the lives of our patients and their family and friends."

"We cannot ignore the problem of opioid abuse - prescription or heroin. This is no longer a big city issue. It is growing to epidemic proportions among our young people throughout our beloved Orange County. I applaud Congressman Maloney for taking critical steps to address it. And we must address it in our schools, our families, and our communities on a grassroots level that includes a focus on prevention. For every $1 spent on prevention, $10 - $15 is saved on treatment costs. Not to mention the toll saved on the individual and family members. It not only makes economic sense, but also good common sense," said Dr. Dean Scher, Executive Director, Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange County.

This legislation would work to combat the prescription drug abuse epidemic in several ways. First, it would create a program to analyze prescribing behavior and share information about improper prescribing with the state health profession board. Second, it would encourage states to implement drug take-back programs to allow people to dispense of unused prescription drugs. Next, this bill would equip doctors with more resources to help identify potential drug abuse patients, by providing funds to train more personnel in interventions and patient screening.

Additionally, the bill would increase access to non-addictive, lifesaving drugs like Naloxone.  The legislation would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a review to determine whether Naloxone should have over-the-counter drug status.  It would also provide grants to study the possibility of allowing advanced nurses and physician’s assistants to prescribe drugs that assist in addiction recovery.

Community programs that provide brief training and equip potential bystanders and emergency responders with Naloxone have demonstrated large reductions in opioid related fatalities. Unfortunately, Naloxone is still considered a prescription drug, enacting large barriers to wide distribution. Multiple states have tackled this issue by implementing liability laws that increase access to Naloxone. However, the only way to effectively place Naloxone in the hands of all those who need it is by making it available over-the-counter.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing public health crisis that affects people of every race, income, and educational level. In 2010 alone, opioids contributed to over 16,000 deaths. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2011 National Survey on Drug Abuse, 1.7 million 12 to 15 year olds abused prescription drugs for the first time, amounting to more than 4,500 per day. Moreover, each year drug abuse and addiction costs over $534 billion, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that we could save $4-$7 in criminal justice costs for every dollar invested in treatment and prevention.

As the White House Office of National Drug Policy notes, the rise in prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse are interconnected. According to the NIDA, 1 in 15 people who take non-medical prescription pain relievers will try heroin within 10 years. Prescription drugs are highly addictive, but also extremely costly, leading many to seek out heroin, which is often available for a fraction of the price.

Earlier this year, Rep. Maloney hosted an emergency telephone town hall on the heroin epidemic in the Hudson Valley. Listen to the full recording of the live Telephone Town Hall here