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Assemblywoman Searches For More Physicians To Help Fight The Opioid Epidemic

Assemblywoman Addie Jenne Russell, whose " River District" encompasses all St. Lawrence County towns plus Potsdam and Canton recently stated that legislation remains just a part of her dedicated efforts to combat the ongoing heroin crisis in North Country, emphasizing the importance of taking action outside the legislative process. More than $25 million has already been allocated by the state Assembly to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services for the implementation of a synthetic opioid and heroin treatment prevention package.

Assemblywoman Russell said that she has introduced bill A10062, which requires opioid overdose-related information (i.e. overdose deaths, type of opiate used, opioid antagonists, pre-hospital services, emergency room visits) to be made available in an easily searchable and viewable format. She has also introduced bill A10492, requiring members of the New York State Police and city police departments, sheriffs and deputy sheriffs to undergo training in the administration of an opioid overdose reversal medication such as Narcan ( naloxone) as well as to carry the life-saving medication in their patrol vehicles.

Russell noted that data available on the state's opioid crisis varies from county to county. In 2014, there were 236 opiate-related emergency admissions in Jefferson County, a 300% increase from 2010 and 177 emergency admissions in St. Lawrence County, a 108% increase from 2010, according to a 2015 report conducted by the New York State Department of Health. Scientific evidence has shown that maintenance treatment with FDA-approved medications for opioid withdrawal such as buprenorphine and methadone, combined with behavioral therapy and recovery support are much more effective in the treatment of opiate use disorders than short-term detox programs aimed at abstinence.

Assemblywoman Addie Russell has been proactively working to find palpable solutions to some of the most stringent issues involved in North Country's unprecedented opioid abuse epidemic. As she has been repeatedly told, a lack of physicians who can prescribe approved medications that have proven to be successful in reducing opiate withdrawal symptoms, as well as the desire to use is one of these pressing issues. In Jefferson County, there are currently three physicians who are certified to prescribe the opiate agonist buprenorphine and two of them can prescribe the medication to patients in their programs only.

According to Russell, nine medical professionals have already signed up to take the specialized training course co-sponsored by the North Country Initiative, Alliance for Better Communities and Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell. Upon successful completion of the 8-hour course in Alexandria Bay that encompasses 3.75 hours of online training and passing the certification examination, physicians will be certified to prescribe buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Approved by the FDA in 2000, buprenorphine can effectively help patients cope with the physically-challenging symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal. She said that in addition to several physicians, a couple of medical professionals are taking the course in anticipation that, in the near future, the government will also allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to dispense the medication.

Assemblywoman Addie Russell has secured a total of $375,000 for law enforcement agencies in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties since 2009 and continues her efforts to provide additional resources for them, stressing the key role of law enforcement in assisting addicts that seek treatment for their drug use disorder.

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