ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A new state law directs the New York State Department of Health, in collaboration with the NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports, and local health care providers, to collect county-level data on alcohol overdoses statewide and share these findings on an annual basis. Experts in prevention see this as a timely and valuable tool, as substance abuse issues have surged.

“I believe that the new legislation will help us, through reporting, identify—without compromising confidentiality of individuals—potential areas in which we in New York State might be able to better focus treatment and prevention services,” said Dr. Dolores Cimini, Director of the Center for Behavioral Health Promotion and Applied Research at University at Albany.

Keith Stack, CEO of Addictions Care Center of Albany, noted that the past decade has seen a heavy focus on the opioid addiction crisis. 70.6% of all drug overdose deaths in 2019 involved opioids, according to the CDC. “That’s just one drug,” he said. “That’s one set of problems. Alcohol has always been an issue of substance abuse.”

Alcohol, not widely considered as taboo or stigmatized as opioids, is legal and easy to purchase for those of age. Its misuse, however, still has consequences. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

Justin Hamm, Executive Director of the Schoharie County Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, told NEWS10 better data reporting on the county level will help groups like his bring services to populations that are most in need of help.

“If we have data, that gives us access to grants, and grants give us access to resources, and resources give us access to more programs,” Hamm explained, “so it’s really a full circle thing.”

A spokesperson for Schenectady County told NEWS10 that their health department is welcoming the changes brought by the new law.

Accurate, up-to-date data on overdoses, including from alcohol, have been historically difficult to obtain so we welcome this change. A full-time Epidemiologist was recently hired to collect, analyze, and use data like this to inform our response to public health issues in the community. It is our hope that having access to accurate alcohol overdose data will help prevent future deaths and assist our community partners in reaching at-risk individuals to assist with treatment and other referrals.

Erin M. Roberts
Director of Public Communications
Schenectady County

“The new reporting mechanisms that this bill creates will deliver the information New York needs to more effectively respond to the alcohol overdose crisis and save lives in our communities, and I thank Governor Hochul for signing it into law,” bill sponsor Senator Michelle Hinchey said in a statement.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism or any substance abuse disorder, resources are available online, like the NYS OASAS Treatment Availability Dashboard.

More resources for addiction services: