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Families react to prescription drug plan

ALBANY - ALBANY -- Family members of prescription drug abuse victims received a welcome surprise just hours after meeting with lawmakers Tuesday, when the state announced it would implement a new system to attempt to curb the problem.

The system, called I-STOP, would track prescriptions in real time to identify people who go to multiple doctors to illegally obtain prescriptions.

"It's the start of major change that has to happen," said Laura Bustamante, 50 of Medford. Bustamante's father, Bryon Sheffield, was killed last year by a prescription drug addict who robbed a Medford pharmacy. "It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of that happening today. It's very hard to put into words."

Bustamante, who works as an administrative assistant, visited the Capitol Tuesday with half a dozen other people to meet privately with lawmakers and tell their stories.

After reaching out to lawmakers on her own without much success, she contacted Avi Israel of Buffalo, who has been outspoken about the dangers of painkillers after his 20-year-old son became addicted and committed suicide. Israel's son Michael had suffered for years with pain from Crohn's disease and related surgeries and had been prescribed powerful painkillers.

"We're all in this together. They lost their children. I lost my father," she said. "My dad wasn't a drug addict, but he lost his life at the hands of a drug addict. It's all the same problem."

The announcement of the I-STOP agreement was a "bittersweet victory," Israel said. "I'm glad that this happened, but I'm sad that I don't have my son."

Earlier in the day, after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), Bustamante said the lawmakers seemed to be listening to her and the others in her group.

"It's been very positive and, for me personally, very empowering, giving me a lot of confidence that something positive will come out of the tragedies that all of us in that room have faced," she said.

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