SUFFERN, N.Y. – As he introduced legislation that would allow for expanded availability of a drug used to treat heroin and opioid overdoses, state Sen. David Carlucci was flanked by several women who had lost a loved one to drugs.
“Heroin addiction is an insidious disease and a major public health crisis in the United States. If we can save a life with the use of Naloxone, then there is always hope of recovery for that individual,” said Ruth Bowles, executive director of the Rockland Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependence Inc.
Carlucci, D-Rockland/Westchester, said the heroin epidemic that has struck the Hudson Valley is destroying families and communities; there have been more than 230 fatal heroin overdoses in Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties in the past five years.
The bill, which is currently in the Senate Committee on Health, would require pharmacies with more than 20 locations in the state to register with the Department of Health’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Program and to issue a standing order to dispense Naloxone, or Narcan, over the counter to anyone who requests it.
“Unfortunately, right now this lifesaving drug (Naloxone) is only accessible over the counter in 14 states and New York City, which means the majority of New Yorkers are unable to acquire it with the same ease as our neighbors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts,” Carlucci said. “We know if we put Naloxone in the hands of more people, we will save lives.”
The women joining Carlucci Thursday included Caren Schwartz, Renee Arbitman and Jane Murphy. Each has fought to educate people about the dangers of heroin and worked to help parents recover after the loss of a loved one.
"The grief and pain is forever, but hopefully the members (of the Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing, or GRASP) group know they are being heard and that their feelings are being validated," said Arbitman, who lost her son, Adam, to drug addiction several years ago. "So much stigma and shame goes along with addiction.”
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