Assembly coronavirus hearing examines impact on those struggling with substance use disorder

NY Capitol News
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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York lawmakers are taking a look at the adverse impacts COVID-19 has had on those struggling with substance use disorder. 

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal said the coronavirus has made the job of treatment providers “much more difficult,” and it’s also caused a “disruption” for those battling substance use disorder

“A day-to-day routine, a support group, you meet face-to-face, regular visits to a treatment center and reliable access to treatment,” Rosenthal said.

Despite online telehealth services available for some, “Many individuals lacked the capability to access telehealth services. And we know that even with federal waivers in place many people had to travel daily to receive their medications risking their lives and the health of others” Rosenthal said.

Another issue was personal protective equipment for treatment providers.

“What we definitely did face — the shortages in PPE — I think cannot be minimized and I think, thinking ahead, what do we do for a second surge? How do we make sure that we’re not facing those again?” said Coalition of Medication Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates President Allegra Schorr.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had also hoped to hear more from the state Department of Health about overdose deaths. But no representatives from the department attended the hearing to testify despite being invited.

“We might have pointed out that the Health Department is in charge of how we register deaths in the state of New York, and whether they’re accurately counted or not, we would have pointed out that there have been issues raised about the impact of hospital capacity during the epidemic,” said Assemblymember Richard Gottfried.  

Lawmakers did note reports of increases in overdose deaths in Ulster, Columbia and Erie counties.

A state Department of Health spokesperson sent the following statement:

“While scheduling conflicts did not permit for the Department of Health to attend today’s hearing, the administration was well-represented by the Commissioner of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports. And as always, the DOH is always available to answer legislative inquiries. ​

The April and July quarterly reports are currently being finalized for release, while the Department of Health continues its unprecedented statewide response to the COVID-19  global pandemic.”

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