Press Release

As Opioid & Heroin Related Deaths In New York Continue To Climb, Senator Gillibrand & State Senator Savino Hold Roundtable On Solutions To End Epidemic

Aug 9, 2016

Staten Island, N.Y. – As opioid and heroin related deaths in New York continue to climb, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and State Senator Diane Savino hosted a roundtable with families and advocates to discuss bolstering efforts to help end the opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, Senator Gillibrand called on Congress to pass 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 Staten Island have increased by 155 percent from 18 deaths in 2004 to 46 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 percent 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 would 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.” 

“Working together with our partners in City, State and Federal government is key to effectively put an end to the heroin and prescription pill scourge in our communities. Senator Gillibrand has shown a commitment to this issue, and we look forward to continuing the conversation on how we can strengthen our laws in order to combat the drug epidemic and win this fight,” said Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon.

“The opioid epidemic is a national crisis that has affected every corner of this city,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Too many lives have been taken and too many families have been broken by these dangerous drugs. I’m proud that Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray have committed unprecedented resources to expand education and treatment on Staten Island and throughout the city. I thank Senator Gillibrand for taking action in Congress and for inviting us to this important roundtable discussion to address the crisis.”


“We know that opioid dependence often starts with a prescription from a physician,” said Adrienne Abbate, Executive Director of the Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness and the project director of the Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) coalition. “Providing prescribers with resources to effectively treat acute pain and screen for potential addiction risk factors is a prevention strategy that we have been advancing at the local level. We applaud Senator Gillibrand for advocating for updated CDC guidelines to bring relief to this national epidemic.”

“Losing a child to addiction affects not only me as a mother but destroys the entire family. A broken heart that can never be repaired.  Make Christopher’s Reason our reason, a reason for change,” said Ann Marie Perrotto, a resident of Staten Island who lost her son to opioids.


“We must take a multi-faceted approach to the fight against opioid abuse. This includes ensuring dangerous and addictive substances are only prescribed to those who actually need them, in the smallest doses, and for the shortest amount of time possible. I thank Senator Gillibrand for tackling this aspect of the problem. In the year 2016 we all know that many of those addicted to heroin and other opioids started down the path of addiction after they were legally prescribed these drugs; we simply must take all steps to ensure that others don’t go down this road unnecessarily,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo.


“The Staten Island YMCA Counseling Service has seen firsthand the rapid increase in opioid abuse cases stemming from over-prescribed, and unused or leftover prescription medicine,” said Jacqueline Filis, executive director of Staten Island YMCA Counseling Services. “We believe this important legislation is a vital step towards limiting access to overprescribed pills and minimizing their number on our streets,” said Jacqueline Filis, Executive Director of the YMCA Counseling Service.


“I have committed 40 years of a professional career focused on the society’s No. 1 Public Health Problem of drug misuse here on Staten Island. United States Senator Gillibrand is to be applauded for taking on an aspect of this extraordinarily complex problem that causes mass human destruction throughout our country and two deaths per week here on Staten Island. Senator Gillibrand’s bill S.2567 clearly places accountability on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the effort to gain control over the ever spreading epidemic. All branches of government must be enlisted in the prevention of drug misuse and the treatment of those afflicted individuals and their family members. Medical doctors must have protocol requirements to avoid overprescribing extremely addictive chemicals. The Senator’s Bill S.2567, as a step, brings us closer to making a full commitment of resources to controlling and mastering the most severe public health problem of our time,” said Luke J. Nasta, M.P.A., CASAC, Executive Director of Camelot of Staten Island, Inc.


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 United States. Over the same time period, there has not been an increase 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.