The impact of the opioid epidemic on our communities has been devastating. Opioid dependency does not discriminate, and I have heard countless stories of painful addiction and heartbreaking loss from people of all backgrounds, income levels, race, and age.
One in four New Yorkers knows someone who has died after overdosing on opioids and more than half have been directly touched by opioid abuse. With rates of overdose in our region continuing to rise and more and more lives being stolen each day, there is no denying that this is an urgent crisis and one that requires us to forge solutions by working together. Our elected leaders, long negligent and absent, must lead decisively and immediately.
The first change must come from us all—we must remove the stigma of judgment and punishment that burdens so many struggling with opiates and instead shift towards a compassionate focus on treatment and reform. In Congress, I will enact policies that promote treatment over incarceration, appropriate federal dollars for programs oriented towards delivering addicts to detox centers, and ensure Medicaid funding for drug treatment facilities. We must also hold drug manufacturers accountable for knowingly marketing these highly addictive substances which directly contributed to their overprescribing and abuse.