ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — State agencies and advocates addressed the opioid epidemic on Monday. The states opioid settlement fund board met with The Office of Addictions Services & Supports to discuss how funds from opioid lawsuits should be used.  

“What I’m concerned about with the opioid advisory council is them pumping more money into an already failing system,” said Alexis Pleus, who lost her son to a heroin overdose in 2014. Pleus is Executive director of TruthPharm, an organization that raises awareness and advocates policy change. She says she hasn’t seen any good solutions from the board even with the new funds. Pleus and other members of the public joined the advisory board meeting, holding hand crafted tomb signs with names of loved ones lost to addiction. 

Dr. Chinazo Cunningham is Commissioner of OASAS, she says the board will come up with a recommendation report for the state legislature and the Governor in November, which will be used in the budget making process for next year. “So what we’ve heard a lot from the board is issues around harm reduction so really focusing on reducing harms, keeping people alive and expanding those services some of those things include naloxone, some of those include outreach and meeting people where they are some of that includes fentanyl test strips,” said Cunningham. The Commissioner says the board has talked about issues like mental health disorders among those with substance abuse disorders which is why they’re also working with the office of mental health.

Pleus says she’d like to see a program that doesn’t operate using the punishment system where those in recovery are reported to CPS, parole or probation, “One of the things that I think people should notice is the fact that enrollment in treatment programs has not increased at all while overdose fatalities continue to increase and what that should tell us is that our treatment programs are not welcoming to people who need the assistance and the help.”