Finch: Session Can’t End Without Addressing Heroin Epidemic
Last week, the state Senate passed bipartisan legislation to bolster the state’s efforts to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic, including measures to strengthen penalties against traffickers who target young people and those in recovery, mandated counseling for patients prescribed opioids and reforms to prevent kickbacks for treatment referrals.
“Young people are dying every day of the week. While I’m as pleased as anyone that we secured more funding for treatment and passed productive insurance reforms during last year’s session and through this year’s budget, we need to recognize that our work is far from over. It’s just beginning. We’re running out of time. These bills need to get to the Assembly Floor,” said Finch.
Finch resents that the New York City Majority have mischaracterized the legislation. "We never think that the answer to peoples' addiction problem is to lock them up in jail. I'd say that's a fundamental disagreement that the Majority have with the Minority," said one prominent Majority member.
“That is nonsense,” said Finch. “The effort to invest in treatment, to erase the stigma of addiction and to provide the resources for suffering New Yorkers to have a second chance at enjoying a healthy life with family and friends has been bipartisan. If you’re asking me if prison is the right place for someone battling the disease of addiction, I would tell you, emphatically, that it is not. The science of addiction tells us that it’s not. The cost of incarceration tells us that it’s not. Having some compassion in our hearts tells us that it’s not. But if you’re asking me if prison is the right place for someone who was caught selling 50 bags of heroin outside of a treatment facility, I would tell you, emphatically, that it is,” said Finch.
Finch said that, even if the Majority can’t swallow common-sense penalties for traffickers who are killing young people every day, there is no reason to hold up other component bills that promote prevention and education, including mandated counseling, new regulations on fentanyl and requiring better communication between parents and physicians who prescribe their children opiates.
“Whatever we can get to the floor for a vote, we need to get to the floor for a vote. This is a public health emergency,” said Finch.