RENSSELAER COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Capital Region county executives say Friday the pandemic put a lot of their important initiatives on pause. Now, amid a more than 65 percent increase in opioid deaths nationwide in 2020 compared to 2019, Rensselaer and Albany say it’s about time to put their plans into action again.
“We are losing far too many people and [opioids] are far too accessible, and we see it all the time our take-back boxes throughout the county, throughout the state, fill up very rapidly,” says Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin.
Rensselaer County just passed a new law requiring pharmacies to provide opioid deactivating products alongside every prescription. Products like Deterra, which can neutralize unused prescriptions and make them safe to dispose of in a landfill.
“Commonsense would tell you pharmaceuticals in our water is not a good idea, not only for the wildlife but for us, so this is a way to neutralize those,” says McLaughlin at Friday’s press conference.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy says he just signed an executive order mandating the same, and says a full measure through the legislature is in the works. He says there may be some funding available to help pharmacies with the added cost, but providing the products will largely fall on the businesses.
“Litigation coming from the opioid money coming in from the state, there’s that money coming in to offset it, because we did get a lot of pushback from our pharmacists,” he explains.
“Wholesale, these things are not that expensive and it’s not a lot to ask to keep your own customers safe,” McLaughlin adds.
Rensselaer is the first county in New York State to pass such a measure. With Albany following quickly behind, state leaders say they hope the ball keeps rolling towards combatting addiction.
“We expect other counties to follow suit as well, ultimately the state of New York. We have a public health crisis. We have to do something to get these opioids off the streets,” says Stephen Acquario, the New York State Association of Counties executive director.
The Rensselaer County local law is already in effect, and McLaughlin says notifications to pharmacies will continue Friday and into the coming week. McCoy says he expects a quick passage of a similar bill through the Albany County Legislature within weeks.