The July 31 Buffalo News editorial “Progress, but opioid crisis continues” hit the correct tone following the county executive’s troubling proclamation that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against deadly opioids, heroin and fentanyl.
It is critical that County Executive Mark Poloncarz and other leaders exercise caution when responding to recent overdose statistics. With 26 consecutive years of record overdose deaths, we have a very long way to go before we can declare that healing and recovery are now the dominant news story. One or two years of even significant progress should not create the false impression that we are almost out of the woods.
To truly turn a corner and end the epidemic, a significant commitment from our state and federal government is needed, one that results in more funding for prevention, treatment and recovery services coupled with meaningful policy reforms.
The work force serving people with addiction is one of the lowest paid in health care, making recruitment and retention a real impediment to treating patients with an opioid dependence. Unfettered and on-demand access to treatment, including all forms of Medication Assisted Treatment is critical and would be facilitated if Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs into law recent provisions passed by the legislature to eliminate prior approval and make all formulations of treatment medications available.
Naloxone – the one antidote to opioids that can be prescribed – is singlehandedly the reason some people are now surviving what once would have been a lethal overdose. Enacting a law that requires co–prescribing Naloxone whenever opioids are prescribed to at-risk individuals is another key policy action the state should take to support reducing mortality rates and help people recover.
Make no mistake, we remain in the throes of the worst-ever crisis of overdose and addiction. A multitude of strategies with the necessary resources is the only solution.