Opioid treatment and the pandemic


ALBANY, NY – Advocates say the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated drug overdoses in New York, and that more action is needed by the state to prevent deaths.

NewsChannel 34 Corina Cappabianca has more on what some say are big challenges.

((Jasmine Budnella, VOCAL-NY Drug Policy Coordinator))
Our whole entire goal is that all patients have immediate access to the drugs that they and their provider decide on. We know that disrupting people with prior authorization, having them have to wait is both deadly and bogs down providers when they could be serving more people.

Advocates say the “barrier” of pre-authorization to receive opioid treatment for those enrolled in Medicaid is just one issue.

Stephanie Lao who leads Catholic Charities Project Safe Point, says despite increased demand, harm reduction services are being underfunded.

((Stephanie Lao, Catholic Charities Project Safe Point Executive Director))
As an organization that is out on the streets, working with people who use drugs, we are seeing a tremendous increase in the need, and unfortunately what we’re facing is a reduction in our capacity to sort of meet that need.

Treatment providers say the withholding of funding for syringe service programs is particularly troubling.

((Roberto Gonzalez, ACR HealthSubstance Use Syringe Exchange Programs Manager))
In July, ACR Health had to furlough 75% of its employees. This was including syringe exchange programs staff, which is considered an essential service.

((Pia Marcus, New York Harm Reduction Educators))
We fear that soon we will be teaching participants how to bleach and reuse their syringes, a practice that we know is not safe can be ineffective at eliminating the transmission of diseases.

Advocates also say that when individuals share syringes, that can lead to HIV and Hepatitis C transmission.

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