U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced approximately $86 million in federal funding for Columbia University’s School of Social Work to address the opioid epidemic with cutting-edge research intended to reduce opioid overdose deaths across New York State. The funding was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of National Institutes of Health.
“Columbia University is a New York icon that has long been a leader in tackling the most intractable problems facing our nation, so it is only fitting that the NIH should support their cutting-edge research on opioid intervention to assist New York counties struggling to respond to spiking opioid-related deaths,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Our institutions of higher learning are laboratories for public policy. With this vital funding, Columbia’s School of Social Work can further bolster our shared work of reducing deaths by opioid addiction across New York. I am proud to support Columbia in this important work.”
“The opioid epidemic has devastated communities across New York and all over the country, and we need to do everything we can to solve this crisis,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “This federal funding will be used to help develop community-based interventions for the treatment and prevention of opioid abuse, and will help us take a significant step forward in the fight against this terrible epidemic. I will continue to do everything in my power to help end the opioid addiction crisis once and for all, and I urge all New Yorkers to keep raising their voices and fighting with me too.”
“The opioid epidemic is a national crisis that is causing devastation throughout society,” said Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger. “With this grant, Professor El-Bassel and her team are providing thoughtful and necessary leadership on this critical issue, working with government and academic partners to put in place effective, proven interventions that will save lives.”
Columbia’s School of Social Work will work with the criminal justice system, health care organizations, emergency rooms, schools and drug treatment programs with the goal to reduce opioid overdose deaths by at least 40 percent in less than four years. Dr. Nabila El-Bassel, the University Professor leading the study, plans to focus on policy and system changes by tracking communities as they reduce the prevalence of opioid use disorder, increasing the number of individuals receiving medication-based treatment, increasing treatment retention beyond six months, providing recovery support services and expanding naloxone distribution. The University is partnering with 15 counties in New York State that have been heavily impacted by the opioid crisis, including Lewis, Broome, Yates, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Columbia, Cortland, Dutchess, Erie, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Suffolk, Sullivan, and Ulster Counties.
Schumer and Gillibrand explained that in New York, drug overdose deaths have exceeded car crashes, homicides, and suicides combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids—a class of drugs that include prescription pain medications and heroin—are involved in 130 deaths every day and were involved in more than 70,000 deaths nationwide in 2017.
The opioid epidemic has hit Long Island especially hard. According to Newsday, in 2018 there were 110 opioid overdose deaths in Nassau County, and 373 opioid overdose deaths in Suffolk County, with the total number of deaths adding to 483.