NYS Exposed: Following the money to fight opioid crisis

July 11, 2018 07:14 AM

New York State spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year fighting the opioid epidemic but it's how the state is spending new money from a tax on opioid manufacturers that is being called into question.

News10NBC looked into where the state's new revenue is actually being spent.


"It re-affirms to all of us that we need to keep working on this very dangerous epidemic," Monroe County Health Commissioner Michael Mendoza states. 

Last week, the Monroe County Medical Examiner released new numbers showing a nearly 40 percent increase in opioid-related deaths last year.

"Until we get our arms around this, more people are going to die," Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini states. 

Local leaders say they need additional resources to fight the accelerating opioid crisis.

"We would have an opioid surcharge. Two cents per milligram would be paid by the manufacturer," Governor Cuomo states. 

That's what many advocates thought was coming after Governor Cuomo created the opioid stewardship fund as part of this year's state budget.

"It would go to offset the costs that we're spending to fight opioid abuse," Cuomo adds. 

But after a USA Today Albany bureau report showed a smaller increase in opioid-related state spending, many wondered where this money, the estimated $100 million, was being spent.

"I think most people take it as you're going to take that money and do new initiatives and add on new money to fight this epidemic and that's not what's happening," Senator Robert Ortt states. 

All the money raised through this new tax *is* going into the opioid stewardship fund. It will go to fight the crisis.

However, as that money goes in, other money is re-directed elsewhere.

That's what state Senate Republicans, including Senator Rob Ortt, have concerns about.

"The bottom-line is this is the kind of thing you need resources to deal with," Senator Ortt adds. 

So, News10NBC reached out to the state's budget office. 

In a statement, they told us, "the fund is designed to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable for their role in the opioid crisis, and help recoup taxpayer costs." 

In other words, put pressure on drug makers, but not directly add new resources into the fight.

"To me, at the end of the day it's really more of a shell game and this is an area where we should not be doing that," Senator Ortt exclaims. "You're talking about kids, young people we know are dying every day. This is not a place where you want to play games with funding." 

The budget office did point out the state's opioid-related spending increased by $23 million last year and a similar increase is expected in 2019 as well. 


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