Schumer Calls for First Statewide Heroin Database
By Long Island News & PRs Published: March 05 2014
Database would be available from Western NY to Suffolk County & could help law enforcement, public health officials & treatment centers fight heroin scourge.
Washington, DC - March 5, 2014 - Today, on a press conference call, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer launched a two-pronged plan to combat the rising epidemic of heroin abuse in New York and around the country. First, Schumer called on the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to establish a detailed framework and implementation plan for New York counties to set up “DrugStat”, a first-ever information-sharing database that would track heroin and other drug-related crimes, overdoses, deaths, hospital admissions and more. This database will allow law enforcement officials to identify patterns, crack down on heroin rings across county lines, target resources to high-crime areas, determine which types of drugs are the most sought after, and determine necessary security changes in drug distribution networks. Schumer is asking the ONDCP to take the lead and provide specific guidance on how interested local law enforcement can begin this process and possible funding routes.
Second, Schumer is urging Senate appropriators to increase funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants. These block grants provide funds to the states to supplement substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, which have a documented need for more funds. Schumer explained that prevention and treatment programs are a key component of the overall effort to curtail drug use and could save counties, hospitals and taxpayers a huge sum of money in avoided health care costs associated with drug overdoses.
“The victims of heroin use are too often our kids, full of potential, whose lives are altered in an instant by these terrible and addictive drugs. More must be done to curtail the spike in heroin use and other drugs, and rescue more New York residents from the bane of drug addiction.”
Schumer continued, “It is critical that we attack the problem from all fronts by improving information sharing, beefing up our law enforcement, prevention, and education efforts, and by getting more support for our treatment facilities. So I’m calling on the feds to help establish a statewide database of drug-related crimes, overdoses and more, so law enforcement can track the trends and work to stop drugs from coming into our communities. Information drives solutions. Further, I’m asking for more funds for the substance abuse prevention and treatment programs across our state that do the hard work of helping addicts recover, and more importantly, preventing at-risk youths from becoming heroin users in the first place.”
Schumer pointed to the rise in Rx drug abuse as one of the prime factors fueling the growth in heroin use, as heroin has become a cheaper, more accessible alternative to prescription narcotics. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), heroin seizures are up 67% over the past four years and there has been a 59% increase in heroin charges over the same period. In 2013, the DEA’s New York office seized 144 kilograms of heroin, worth roughly $43 million, which is 20% of the DEA’s nationwide seizures. In Long Island, the past two years have seen the two highest ever recorded totals of heroin deaths – nearly 250 combined in 2012-2013.
Schumer first asked that the ONCDP work with New York State law enforcement to expand the RxStat program, currently running in New York City, to all of New York and to include substances beyond prescription drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. The RxStat database is a part of the larger COMPStat (computer or comparative statistics) program that is run by the NYC Police Department to track evolving all drug and crime data, has proven successful in lowering crim in New York City, and has been replicated across the country.
Outline and benefits of Schumer’s proposal:
- The ONDCP should work with interested counties and state health entities to create a statewide “DrugStat” program to track heroin and other drug abuse trends, the chemical makeup of drugs, fatal overdoses and emergency room admissions
- County law enforcement, local hospitals, toxicologists, substance abuse treatment centers and other eligible users would have access to such a statewide database and would input timely and accurate information related to crimes, fatal and non-fatal overdoses and deaths on a real time basis. This would allow law enforcement to uncover emerging heroin use and abuse trends, help track down on dealers and can help counties develop the most effective public safety-public health strategies.
- This database would aid in information sharing within a county, but also beyond county lines, in order to identify trends, facilitate the distribution of law enforcement resources to the areas of highest need, and give local departments a powerful tool in the effort to crack down on drug abuse.
- The database would contain case-by-case information including a map of the locations of crimes, police department complaints, and a printable format of the case.
- Information in the database would be collected first by assigned users at the county level, who would be able to edit the database with drug-related crime incidents. Incidents are monitored and identifiable links are communicated to law enforcement agencies. Schumer said that such information sharing can encourage conversation, problem-solving initiatives and help develop tactics to identify and address trends as they relate to certain types of drugs, their origin and their use.
Schumer is asking that ONDCP create a detailed and widely-applicable framework that interested localities can use to establish such databases, and said that the feds should provide technical support and training during that implementation process. This could include providing information on the best software programs to use, which statistics to monitor, and how to go about analyzing this data. In addition to technical expertise and guidance, Schumer intends to determine routes for financial support to help counties set up these databases, potentially through programs like the Hal Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which helped NYC fund similar data-driven solutions to combat drug abuse. Schumer said that the first step is getting ONDCP on board with this plan, and then, county participation is of utmost importance. At that point, Schumer will work on a campaign to make counties aware and to encourage them to implement these procedures.
Second, Schumer has written Senate appropriators urging that they increase funds for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) under the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS). The President’s FY2015 budget request keeps funding for the SABG the same as last year, at $1.8 billion, despite the growing crisis of heroin abuse in the Northeast and in other hotspots across the country. Specifically, Schumer is requesting an increase from the President’s budget request for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grants (SABG), which provide funds directly to states to dispense to effective programs in their states. Schumer highlighted that these funds are not just about helping treat recovering users; 20% of the block grants to states must be spent on prevention and educational programs that target younger people who have never used. Moreover, the grants can be used to forward efforts to study the best methods of substance abuse treatment and prevention and measure their results.
Schumer cited a variety of reports which document the need for an increase of support to local substance abuse prevention and treatment programs stemming from the recent heroin crisis. As reported in TheBuffalo News, according to Anne Constantino, president and CEO of Horizon Health Services in Western New York, longer stays at inpatient treatment facilities would greatly improve an addicts chance of achieving long-term sobriety. Fourteen-day stays are becoming the norm in the industry, partially due to costs, and Schumer explained that fourteen days is not enough time to effectively wean an addict or potential addict off of heroin. Given the average age of most heroin abusers, a longer stay is often required to establish healthy habits. Schumer added that there is also a basic demand issue: there are more applications for entry into treatment programs than institutions can accept. For example, Horizon Village, which is one of the larger inpatient treatment facilities, has 80 applications pending for its 50 beds on any given day.
Schumer explained that supporting local treatment and preventions programs could have a profound effect on the health of local residents and save the communities hundreds of thousands in health care costs. If treatment facilities are not able to keep users for as long as they need, or are turning down applicants, they instead enter the health care system through the emergency room – as a result of an overdose. Prevention and treatment programs – beyond saving New Yorkers from a harmful and life-destroying drug – are a fiscally prudent investment, said Schumer.
Copies of Senator Schumer’s letters to the ONDCP and the Appropriations Committees are available upon request.