Spurred by a spate of fatal heroin overdoses on Long Island, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging lawmakers to pass federal legislation that would help expand use of a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015, introduced by Rebublican Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Rob Portman of Ohio, would provide funding for law enforcement and other first responders to purchase naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan.
It also would improve prescription drug-monitoring programs at the state level. Inefficiencies and loopholes in existing programs allow users “to game the system and obtain more drugs than they should,” Schumer said Wednesday.
The legislation would shift resources to identify and treat incarcerated people, “rather than just punishment as is often the case currently,” the senator said.
“Heartbreaking stories of good, hardworking people who have slipped away because of a prescription drug, heroin or other opioid addiction, are painful to hear,” Schumer said in a statement. “But for some on Long Island, the drug naloxone presented a second chance at life and treatment — an opportunity to unlock the deadly grip of addiction.”
Schumer is a co-sponsor of The Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, which would allocate an additional $600 million to the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services for local governments to use in their efforts to combat the drug scourge.
The funding would include $200 million to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, $10 million to the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force Grant Program and $225 million to the Substance Abuse Preventing and Treatment Block Grant Program.
Steven Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence based in Mineola, said increased availability of naloxone will mean more lives saved — and more opportunities for live-changing treatment.
The council has trained more than 4,000 people on Long Island to administer Narcan, often delivered as a nasal spray.
“We have seen the positive impact second chances can offer individuals and families in their struggle with substance use disorders,” he said.
There were 58 fatal heroin overdoses last year in Nassau County and 103 in Suffolk, records show. Hundreds of addicts were saved with Narcan, officials said last week.