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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

“New law helps prevent first-time drug use”

ALBANY, July 15, 2018 -- One of the key actions of the 2018 legislative session was the Legislature’s overwhelming approval of what’s known as the “Drug Take Back Act.”

I proudly sponsored this legislation in the Senate, believing it would be another important tool to help combat the abuse of prescription painkillers. It would also help prevent unused drugs from contaminating community water supplies.

Consequently, I am pleased to report that the Drug Take Back Act has now been signed into law.

Specifically, this new law will establish an industry-funded, statewide pharmaceutical drug take-back program. It advances a “product stewardship” approach to the challenge of disposing of unwanted prescription medications. Product stewardship is based on the idea that the manufacturers, producers or sellers of a product should take responsibility for minimizing the product's environmental- and health-related impacts throughout all stages of its life cycle, including disposal, recycling or destruction.

In this instance, pharmaceutical manufacturers will be responsible for all of the program’s costs including public education and awareness, as well as the collection, transport and destruction of unwanted or unused prescriptions. The law further requires chain pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies to provide consumers with on-site collection, prepaid mail-back envelopes or other federally approved methods to encourage safe drug disposal.

We must take every step we possibly can to complement and support the efforts of local law enforcement and other community leaders to combat prescription drug abuse. These efforts include participating in National Prescription Drug Take Back Days and other similar initiatives to facilitate the collection, and safe and responsible disposal, of unused medications.

The newly enacted Drug Take Back Act will greatly expand the number of permanent, locally based drop-off locations and be a very positive, cost-effective addition to New York State's ongoing, overall strategy to protect our communities and local environments. It creates a unified, statewide program that will save taxpayer dollars and reduce medication misuse. Additionally, the program will protect New York State’s waterways by helping prevent the improper disposal of unused drugs, by flushing for example.

Not long ago, I highlighted here a truly troubling statistic: According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), more than 70% of teenagers get their hands on prescription drugs for the first time from family and friends -- more often than not, unused drugs found, for example, in the household medicine cabinet.

Furthermore, studies show that first-time drug and alcohol use peaks during the summer. More than 2,500 teens try prescription drugs for the first time on an average day in June, for example. Commonly, the drugs they use are the unused medications they find at home, or at a friend’s house.

Studies also highlight the strong link between opioid-based prescription painkillers, and heroin and opioid addiction and overdoses. The bottom line is that prescription painkillers can be, in the words of one study, a “pathway to addiction.”

All of the above is precisely why National Drug Take Back Days are so important in the ongoing fight against this epidemic -- and why the enactment of our Drug Take Back Act (Senate Bill Number 9100, Chapter 120) is welcome news. It is a significant addition to other important actions taken by the Legislature over the past several years. These actions include limiting initial opioid-based prescriptions to seven days, funding for new treatment beds, expanded inpatient and outpatient care, inpatient insurance coverage, allowing the use of suboxone for substance use disorder treatment and, recently, authorizing the use of medical marijuana to treat opioid abuse as well as for chronic pain.

Providing community residents with an accessible, convenient, easy way to get rid of unused prescription medications is a proven first line of defense. Restricting access is one of the most effective ways to help fight first-time use, and prevent abuse.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Carl Blowers, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Carl Blowers

Van Harp

Jim Howell

David M. Reed

Michael Lausell

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Harriett Vickio, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2017
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869