New York State is getting $25 million in federal funds to help fight the opioid addiction epidemic.
Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul says among other things, the funding will target a particular population: addicts in more rural areas where treatment is an hour or two away.
“Someone in a rural area is not going to take two hours off work to drive to a facility,” Hochul said. “I’ve heard that. Whether it’s Watertown or Plattsburgh, these are the people where the addictions continue to grow because the treatment is not available.”
So the state will invest in mobile treatment centers, along with more telemedicine opportunities to try to reach these individuals. The funds are targeting 16 upstate counties that have the most need, based overdose and hospitalization statistics.
"These people are the ones who want to get help,” Hochul said. “They’re the ones who said 'I’m willing to show up somewhere', but if it’s a matter of accessibility, if there’s not a center in walking distance or in their own community and they have to travel, they’re not going to do it.”
Hochul says the state has made progress at the front end of the epidemic, such as limiting the access of prescription opioid drugs. But she says now, the focus has to be on treatment because it generally takes ten years for an addict to die from an overdose.
“We have to look at who’s already addicted, providing them services and help them get off their addiction and recover,” she said. “And I think that’s when we’re going to start getting better. I don’t think we’ve hit rock bottom yet, though.”