Press Release

As Opioid & Heroin Related Deaths In New York Continue To Climb, Senator Gillibrand & Nassau County District Attorney Singas Urge Passage Of Bipartisan Legislation To Fight Opioid Epidemic

Mar 18, 2016

Massapequa, N.Y. – As opioid and heroin related deaths in New York continue to climb, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas 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 recently finalized 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 on Long Island have increased by 300 percent from 60 deaths in 2004 to 238 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.”


“I have advocated for state laws to make our narcotics prosecutions more effective.  We need stronger laws.  Senator Gillibrand’s federal bill will save patients from the grips of addiction that over-prescription can lead to; the leadership in Congress should embrace and pass this bipartisan legislation immediately,” said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas.


“The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) commends Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for her leadership in introducing the Preventing Overprescribing for Pain Act as legislation geared towards much needed CDC guidelines that will work to control and curb the gross overprescribing of pain medication that has undeniably led to the increase in substance use disorders currently ravaging families and communities across Long Island. LICADD agrees with Senator Gillibrand that addiction education and regulations are needed to re-direct the current opioid prescribing patterns of the medical profession that regrettably, has had an adverse impact on too many lives and families on Long Island and across the country,” said Steven Chassman, Executive Director of LICADD


“By every available measure – overdose fatalities, arrests and treatment admissions – this crisis is getting worse. Prescribers can play a key role in addressing the opioid epidemic, but they need evidence-based, updated and actionable guidelines from our nation’s public health authorities. Two decades into this crisis, we still routinely hear about folks who leave dental and medical offices following minor procedures with prescriptions for huge quantities of highly addictive painkillers. Prescribers need more education about effective pain management, spotting doctor shoppers and intervention strategies for those who are struggling with addiction. We congratulate and thank Senator Gillibrand for her thoughtful, persuasive and consistent advocacy in addressing what’s become America’s top public health problem,” said Dr. Jeffrey L. Reynolds, Ph.D, CEAP, SAP of Family and Children’s Association.


“There is not a week that goes by when we do not learn of another tragic death or overdose due to the opiate and heroin epidemic.  The only way we will make a difference, is to recognize that we all must work harder to prevent future tragedies.  There is no one answer; working together with our legislative partners, treatment providers, and community stakeholders we will save lives.  The CARA legislation marks a significant effort in our fight,” said Jamie Bogenshutz, Executive Director YES Community Counseling Center and Co-President of the Nassau Alliance for Addiction Services.


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.