The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

Agreement On Legislation To Address The Heroin And Opioid Epidemic

Capitol, The Red Room
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (right) joined Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Coalition Majority Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeffrey Klein at the Capitol today to announce an agreement on legislation to implement preventative measures that will combat the statewide heroin and opioid epidemic. Key provisions of the agreement include requiring health insurers to provide coverage for the treatment of heroin and opioid abuse, strengthening state laws to prevent the illegal distribution of drugs, and creating a state wide heroin and opioid awareness campaign to educate parents, youth and health care professionals about the dangers of these substances. The measure also will provide guidelines for the proper use of naloxone through the distribution of educational cards.

Few occurrences in life are more disheartening, more disturbing and more frustrating than the enslavement, self-destruction and death caused by addiction. Given its prevalence, I would guess that many in this room know someone, are losing someone, or have lost someone to drug and alcohol abuse.

It is devastating to families. It weakens communities and it is taking an enormous toll on our state. What we have lost to addiction in human potential alone is incomprehensible.

It is easy for those who are not fighting this plague to say, "Hey, they're addicts, who cares? Let them self-destruct."

We care. The families of the addicted care. The medical community cares. The law enforcement community cares. Legislators care. No civilized society turns away from its own and we will not accept a paradigm where rock stars and movie stars and professional athletes are the only people worth saving.

Every year, I meet with the Coalition for Community Services and I meet and listen to young people who are making the arduous trek back from addiction. It is a fight that can be won, individual by individual, with education, with prevention, and with efforts to reduce the stigma associated with drug treatment.

Today we are sending the message that the State of New York is getting more involved in the fight against heroin and opioid abuse than ever before.

Last week, on Long Island, Governor Cuomo spoke comprehensively and eloquently about the heroin epidemic and he is absolutely correct in saying that this is not a fight government can win alone. We need citizens and families, neighbors and communities to join us in rising to this immense challenge.

Today, we are providing New Yorkers with the educational resources, insurance coverage and law enforcement tools to strengthen our efforts.

Thank you, Governor, for your leadership both in guiding us to this agreement and for increasing the number of police units assigned to this fight. We commend, as well, our colleagues in the Senate for conducting hearings and advancing recommendations to address this epidemic.

I am especially proud of my colleagues in the Assembly, members on both sides of the aisle, for their contributions to this agreement.

I particularly wish to acknowledge the Chair of our Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Assembly Member Steve Cymbrowitz, who conducted public roundtables earlier this year in concert with:

The Chair of our Committee on Health, Assembly Member Dick Gottfried;

The Chair of our Committee on Codes, Assembly Member Joe Lentol;

The Chair of our Committee on Insurance, Assembly Member Kevin Cahill;

And all of the sponsors and supporters of our legislation who are here with us today.

If I might, let me recognize all of the families, the substance abuse counselors, the health and law enforcement professionals who are fighting this battle on the front lines. This agreement would certainly not be possible without their critical input.

These are sound, thoughtful measures and we are confident that they will help us stem the tide of destruction being wrought by heroin and opioid addiction.

Once again, Governor, thank you for your leadership. We couldn't have reached this agreement without you.

Thank you.