Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday formed a 23-member panel that is being charged with combating heroin and opioid addiction in New York.
The addiction crisis has long been simmering through swaths of the state, especially in economically troubled rural areas in the upstate regions.
“Opioid addiction is a national epidemic that continues to plague families in communities across New York – and the state has been taking aggressive action to tackle this crisis head on,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“The Heroin Task Force will take these efforts to the next level with a comprehensive action plan developed by a diverse coalition of experts. We will use the task force’s recommendations to implement smart solutions that will protect public health, enhance safety in communities statewide and save the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers.”
The task force will be led by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who will serve as co-chair alongside Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, the commissioner of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
State lawmakers had previously signaled plans to fight heroin addiction in the state, with a push designed to provide more increased quantities of naloxone in communities across the state. At the same time, a Senate-led task force on addiction has pushed for increased treatment options on the local level following more than a dozen hearings on the issue.
Over the last several years, state officials have sought to temper the growing heroin addiction issues that have plagued parts of the state given the cheaply produced and readily available amounts of the drug.
Nevertheless, the problem remains unabated, with communities like Elmira particularly hard hit.
“Heroin and opioid deaths in New York State have reached unconscionable levels,” Hochul said. “On behalf of the families all across New York whose lives have been shattered by this crisis, I’m honored to lead the fight against it. We will leave no stone unturned in our quest to find ways to not only prevent, but also break the cycle of addiction that has destroyed so many lives in our state.”
The task force also includes Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Sen. Terrence Murphy and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.