The growing prescription drug and opioid abuse epidemic has prompted responses from all levels of government, including the State. Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the partnering of state agencies with local law enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
The event, which was the 14th to be conducted in the seven years since its inception, took place on Oct. 28 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 5,321 locations nationwide and 282 in New York.
Among the sites in New York was the New Paltz Police Department, who collected almost 500 lbs. according to Lt. Robert Lucchesi. A record 912,305 lbs.–456 tons– of unused pills were collected nationwide.
“We participate every year. Sometimes it’s twice a year, sometimes it’s once but we’ve been participating for the past seven years,” Lucchesi said. “We have a med return box here in the station and we empty it about once a week.”
The opioid epidemic, which has been declared a public health crisis by Pres. Donald Trump, resulted in 33,091 deaths nationwide in 2015. Ulster County alone saw 195 opioid-related overdoses and deaths in 2016, while New York was one of 19 states to see a statistically significant increase in drug overdose death rates from 2014 to 2015.
“Opioid use, whether it be from prescriptions or illicit use is an issue here just like everywhere else,” Lucchesi said. “We make an effort to combat it in a bunch of different ways, including prevention, education and lifesaving. Every member of our department has been trained in the use of Narcan or naloxone since 2014.”
Lucchesi encouraged individuals to understand the opioid epidemic, be informed on signs of addiction and receive training in the use of lifesaving drugs like Narcan.
“It’s a problem that’s not just in our community and I don’t think there’s a silver bullet solution,” Lucchesi said. “We have to realize that this is a disease and treat it as such.”
From Gov. Cuomo’s announcement: “New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the State’s toll-free, 24-hour, seven-day-a-week HOPELine at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).”