As drug counselors and many others gathered at the state Capitol in Albany last week to rally for action against the region’s overdose crisis, they remembered loved ones who died from overdoses, recalled their mission and sent a message that more work has to be done.
Attending rallies and holding open forums are important for raising public awareness of drug addiction, the dangers of opioids and the proliferation of legal but overprescribed painkillers. This rally, the second of its kind, reminds the public that there are people out there who care and will listen.
It is also a way to make the counselors and advocates heard in Albany’s legislative chambers and statehouse. For example, Gov. Andrew Cuomo swore to authorize four “harm reduction” sites to see how they would work. Harm reduction involves taking steps to reduce the risk of overdosing and minimizing other harm while addicted to drugs. To date there has been no movement on these sites.
The counselors recognize that not everyone is at a place where they are ready to recover. But they can coach addicts on ways to help save their lives and get them to the point where they are ready to take the big first step toward recovery.
Seventy thousand people died in the United States last year from overdoses and drug-related deaths. Some among that number were from the Twin Counties. But the government response is not even close to the seriousness of this issue. Getting a handle on the overdose crisis should be proactive, not reactive, to spikes in fatality statistics.