Sun Community News
July 18, 2018
In 2016, over 3,600 New Yorkers died of an opioid overdose.
In some counties in our congressional district, overdose fatalities have doubled and tripled in recent years.
We see the harmful effects heroin and opioids have on our communities almost every day when we open the local paper.
Since arriving in Congress, I have prioritized combating this tragic epidemic. I have met and visited with many of the local organizations focused on this crisis.
I toured St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center’s outpatient clinic in Malone and their inpatient and veterans program in Saranac Lake.
I have met with organizations including the Alliance for Better Communities in Watertown, and I have kicked off a constructive roundtable with the Essex County Heroin and Opioid Prevention Coalition (ECHO).
I have brought together stakeholders on all sides of the issue — from law enforcement to those in recovery — for roundtables and meetings to discuss the path forward.
In my first year in Congress, I joined the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force to focus on federal policy solutions.
Our legislative approach has been comprised of four pillars: prevention, treatment and recovery, protecting communities and fighting fentanyl — the most widely used synthetic opioid.
In my first term in office, we successfully advanced two major initiatives to combat this epidemic that were signed into law.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act — a landmark bill that made major investments to promote treatment and recovery from opioids.
In fact, this bill recently made two grants available to the Massena Drug Free Community Coalition and the Alliance for Better Communities in Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties.
We also passed the 21st Century Cures Act, a major reform to our healthcare delivery system that advances research into developing better recovery treatments, helps customize patient recovery programs, and included significant funding to New York state to respond to the opioid epidemic.
In total, I have supported over $4 billion in federal funding to invest in the fight against opioid abuse.
But this fight is ongoing, in our communities and in the halls of Congress.
Just recently, I helped lead the effort to pass dozens of bipartisan bills to continue providing solutions and resources to communities across the nation.
One major comprehensive initiative we passed is the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.
This legislation expands access to improved treatment and recovery services, encourages non-addictive opioid alternatives for pain management and improves data that will help at-risk patients, and gives law enforcement tools and federal resources to get dangerous drugs out of our communities.
Included in this bill are important measures that will aid the fight in the North Country as well.
For instance, one provision will offer student loan repayment of up to $250,000 for participants who agree to work as substance use disorder treatment professionals in areas of the nation most in need, particularly rural areas like the North Country. This will increase crucially needed treatment capacities in our district.
And as the home of more veterans than any congressional district in New York, I am pleased this bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire Veterans Justice Outreach specialists to ensure that our veterans don’t fall into the criminal justice system due to struggles with opioid abuse and addiction, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or mental illness.
This comprehensive bill also includes updates to Medicaid and Medicare to give these important healthcare programs added tools to fight opioid abuse.
There is no one silver bullet to tackle this issue and this fight will be ongoing across our communities.
I will work to ensure that community organizations such as ECHO, the Alliance for Better Communities in Jefferson County, the Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery of Clinton County, and others in our region have the resources they need to bring education and recovery resources to as many North Country residents as possible.
We know our neighborhoods and communities best in the North Country, and some of the most effective strategies come from our local advocates.
If you have ideas and feedback about how best to tackle this problem, I encourage you to contact me by visiting stefanik.house.gov or calling any of my offices. Together, we can eradicate opioid addiction and help North Country families lead happy, healthy lives.
— Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) represents New York’s 21st Congressional District