Opioid crisis reports strike nerve with OASAS commissioner

13 Investigates‘ recent series on the opioid crisis gave you an inside look at the raw truth of overdoses in Gloversville, and the stress it puts on the community and the officers who respond to calls like this every day.

It was shocking to many people, but not to the OASAS commissioner, Dr. Chinazo Cunningham. However, she did find one thing shocking.

OASAS is the Office of Addiction Services and Support.

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The body camera video from the Gloversville Police Department gives you the truth of what an overdose looks like, and it happens multiple times a day.

The commissioner said this is a scene playing out all over New York and across the country. She believes it is going to take every family in every neighborhood, in every community to work together to beat this deadly epidemic. It’s about open conversations and education.

The commissioner said there have been historic investments to help people.

Now the plan is to expand street outreach and mobile medication units. A $10 million boost from the federal government will go toward developing mobile medication units throughout the state and expanding street outreach programs. Both are targeted toward high-risk populations and those who have trouble accessing care. OASAS will distribute the funding.

However, all of this work costs money. So how is all this paid for?

In part, through opioid settlements – the money big pharma was ordered to pay for its part in the opioid crisis.

“It’s directly going to communities that are at high risk and to people who might not otherwise receive treatment,” the commissioner said. “Focusing on the things that we know have evidence and date behind them to save lives.”

“Fentanyl is extremely potent, and that’s the reason why now we need three or four doses of naloxone. Ten years ago, you just needed one.”

Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, OASAS Commissioner

One part of the body camera footage did strike the commissioner – the four Narcan doses administered to save a woman’s life. The commissioner says this certainly speaks to the growing threat of fentanyl, the drug that makes the high more intense, but more dangerous. It’s the driving force behind overdose deaths.

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“It speaks to the significant change in the opioid epidemic over time,” Cunningham said. “Fentanyl is extremely potent, and that’s the reason why now we need three or four doses of naloxone. Ten years ago, you just needed one.”

The commissioner says there is one life or death question every addict needs to ask themselves these days before they use, and it’s not, “is there fentanyl in this drug?” but “how much fentanyl is in this drug, and could it be the last high I’ll ever experience?”