Guest Op-Ed: Passing crucial legislation to keep our streets safe

In the final hours of the 2014 legislative session, the New York State Legislature took action on one of the most important issues of the year, passing sweeping measures to combat the prescription drug and heroin epidemic plaguing our communities.

Recent findings have correlated the prevalence of the epidemic with increased accessibility, effectiveness and low street value. With the value of opiate painkillers increasing, this cheaper, life-threatening alternative has infiltrated our communities. As repeated tragedies have spread rapidly across the state, the state legislature took action.

An agreement between the legislature and governor led to the enactment of a comprehensive 11-bill package to address the crisis. The measures included greater funding for law enforcement, an expansion of insurance coverage for medical treatment for addicts, an aggressive awareness and education campaign, and stiffer penalties for those dealing illicit drugs.

The legislation establishes harsher penalties for individuals who unlawfully sell controlled substances and who fraudulently obtain a controlled substance. It also gives law enforcement the additional tools it needs to more effectively track down criminal activity contributing to the spread of drug abuse.

The legislation also improves strategies to increase treatment for those who suffer from addiction. By improving diagnostic processes and broadening treatment options and insurance coverage, we can provide addicts with the services they desperately need to combat their addiction.

The final measure is designed to prevent prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction before it begins. It provides for development of a public awareness campaign to educate youth, parents, health care professionals and the general public about the severity of heroin and opioid addiction to prevent them from falling into the vicious cycle of drug abuse. It also directs the Department of Education to develop a curriculum for schools.

To combat prescription drug abuse further at the local level, a prescription drug take-back program has been implemented in Brooklyn. The program helps prevent unwanted or unused prescription drugs from getting into the wrong hands.

Far too often, residents dispose of prescription drugs in an unsafe or risky manner or children or grandchildren take them out of medicine cabinets for inappropriate use. To keep drugs out of the wrong hands, I encourage residents to use this important program.

Residents have 24/7 access to drop off any unwanted prescriptions in a secure environment at BrooklynÂ’s 68th Precinct, 333 65th Street.

The unforeseen infiltration of this epidemic is a frightening reality, and I am pleased that we were able to work together in Albany to enact these new laws.

In order to keep residents safe from this severe problem, we must continue to improve inter-agency involvement between law enforcement, health care providers and community members. I believe that together we can tackle this epidemic and save lives.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis represents the 64th A.D.

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