Press Release

As Opioid & Heroin Related Deaths In New York Continue To Climb, Senator Gillibrand Urges Passage Of Bipartisan Legislation To Fight Opioid Epidemic

Mar 11, 2016

Newburgh, N.Y. – As opioid and heroin related deaths in New York continue to climb, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand along with families and advocates are calling on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to help end the opioid epidemic. Senator Gillibrand introduced the Preventing Overprescribing for Pain Act, legislation that would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue guidelines for the safe prescribing of opioids for the treatment of acute pain. The CDC is currently only focused on guidelines for opioids prescribed to treat chronic pain. However, many individuals become addicted to opioids after taking prescriptions for acute pain. Acute pain includes pain following a broken bone, wisdom tooth extraction, or other surgeries, whereas chronic pain is long-term pain that can last weeks, months, or years.

According to the most recent data from the New York State Department of Health, opioid related deaths in the Hudson Valley have increased by nearly 1,000 percent from 16 deaths in 2004 to 173 deaths in 2013. 51 people die each day in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids according to the CDC, nearly five times the number in 1999. Between 1999 and 2010, there was a 400% increase in sales of prescription opioid pain relievers in the United States. However, in that same period, there was no increase in the amount of pain Americans reported, according to the CDC.

“As the opioid epidemic continues to grow in New York and across the country, we can’t wait any longer to take action and curb this growing crisis,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Part of this epidemic can be attributed to some medical providers over-prescribing opioids. When someone gets a tooth out and only needs medication for three days – why are they sent home from the doctor’s office with 30 Percocet? I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation that will help fix this problem by requiring the CDC to issue clear guidelines to help medical providers safely prescribe opioids for these common types of acute pain. I am urging my colleagues in Congress to pass this measure to help curb the growing opioid crisis.”


“Each day 120 Americans die of a drug overdose – these are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters – and I hear about these tragedies everywhere I go,” said Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.” Working together with Senator Gillibrand we must pass this critical legislation to curb the overprescribing of opioids which is fueling the heroin epidemic in our region.”


“Opiate abuse is taking lives and destroying families in Orange County,” said Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus. “We need to do everything we can to help those who are addicted or in recovery. This epidemic doesn’t only affect the individuals using drugs, it is devastating to their friends and families as well. We in government need to continue to address this problem and I applaud Senator Gillibrand for introducing this legislation to help fight the opioid epidemic at the grassroots level.”


“Opioids have become a national emergency,” said Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy.  “ These drugs are affecting rich and poor, youth and adults, every state, every ethnicity – no one is left out.  The drugs are draining national resources both in money and human creativity.   I appreciate the work and effort that Senator Gillibrand is putting forth to support a bill that will help us find a solution for this National epidemic”.


“We are pleased in Orange County to have the opportunity to support Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s  proposed legislation that will offer common sense solutions with guidelines addressing prescribing of opioids for acute pain,” said Darcie M. Miller, Commissioner, Orange County Department of Social Services and Acting Commissioner, Orange County Department of Mental Health. “Together with our Orange County Opioid and Heroin Prevention Task Force we are focusing on expanding availability of medication assisted treatment, best practice interventions, and prevention and education.  The  Opioid Epidemic has broadened the awareness of the need for expanded addiction services for all those challenged with substance abuse and/or addiction.  Additionally, it has helped to highlight the need for integrated care and success will be dependent on multiple partners working together to address population health needs. “


“The struggle with opioid and heroin addiction is a real and growing problem in all communities,” said Dr. Dean Scher, Executive Director, Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange County. “It knows no boundaries and does not discriminate by gender, economics, or ethnicity. It is killing our young people and that has to stop. We are grateful to Senator Gillibrand for taking the lead on legislation to help put an end to this epidemic; we share her commitment to fighting for the future of our youth.”


“We, as a community, as a state, as a nation, are indeed facing an epidemic,”  said Dr. Judith A. Branche, Medical Director, The Center for Recovery, Cornerstone Family Healthcare. “Opioid painkillers, frequently prescribed in the primary care setting to treat chronic and acute pain, has largely fueled this crisis. With 400 individuals currently enrolled in substance abuse treatment at the Center for Recovery, and a waiting list of 120, we have to push to cut off the epidemic at the root.  Many health professionals are not adequately prepared and require greater training and education on pain management, opioid prescribing and related risks of substance abuse, prevention and treatment. To reduce the burden of addiction, physician education, safe opioid prescribing systems and guidelines, and patient monitoring is key to managing this raging epidemic.  The Center for Recovery stands behind and applauds Sen. Gillibrand for introducing legislation to confront and address the negative and growing bi-partisan issue of safe prescribing guidelines.” 


“As we face an epidemic in opiates now, we must keep the focus on all addiction, there have been epidemics in the past and will be others in the future,” said James Conklin, Executive Director of The Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Council of Orange County. “Consistency is key in the treatment, prevention and recovery for all addiction.”


The Facts On the Growing Opioid Epidemic:


  • Nearly 2 million Americans abuse or are addicted to prescription opioids, and nearly half a million more are addicted to heroin according to SAMHSA.


  • In 2014, nearly 19,000 people died in the United States from overdose related to opioid pain relievers, nearly five times the number in 1999 according to CDC.


  • The increase in opioid addiction is linked to an increase in opioid prescriptions. Between 1999 and 2010, there was a 400% increase in sales of prescription opioid pain relievers in the U.S. Over the same time period, there has not been an increased in the amount of pain Americans report according to CDC.


  • In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers – enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills according to CDC.


  • Teenagers who receive an opioid prescription by 12th grade are 33% more likely to abuse opioids after high school. The risk for opioid abuse is even higher among teenagers who report little to no previous use of illicit substances according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.



  • In a paper published by the American Dental Association in 2011, 64% of dentists surveyed preferred prescribing hydrocodone with acetaminophen for a third molar extraction, for an average of 20 pills per prescription.
  • 4 in 5 individuals who use heroin report prior abuse of prescription opioids, according to SAMHSA.