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Senator Akshar hosts panel discussion on ways to address area heroin epidemic

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - State Senator Fred Akshar hosted a panel discussion on ways to address our area's heroin epidemic.

The Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, Co-Chaired by Akshar, held a discussion last night at Binghamton University.

Four sets of panels addressed a packed crowd at B-U to urge lawmakers to consider more treatment options, more funding to fight the epidemic and more wrap around services for addicts once they complete treatment.

Truth Pharm Founder Alexis Pleus discussed the need for the state to mandate insurance companies to cover a minimum of 90-days.

She also discussed the need for safe consumption sites, where addicts can use heroin under medical supervision, something Akshar opposes.

Akshar says there are many approaches that need to be investigated to combat the epidemic.

"There is not a silver bullet in dealing with this particular issue.  We need to continue taking a multi-faceted approach, whether that's expanding access to treatment or education and prevention.  Enforcement is also a key component in all of this," said Akshar.

Penny Stringfield was a panelist and lost her son, Johnny, to a heroin overdose.

She says her new insurance policy has no coverage for any treatment and was told it was too expensive for companies to carry the option.

She says while more work needs to be done, people can overcome addiction.

"We hammered and hammered and hammered the fact this is a horrible epidemic.  There are things that are still terrible but there is hope.  There's hope and there's recovery if we all work together," said Stringfield.

Other topics included the need for all emergency responders to carry Narcan, which reverses the effects of an overdose.

One father discussed how many treatment centers across the nation are more concerned with money than treating people.

In addition, panelists called for a tax for opioids and a tax on profits made by companies that push opioids.

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