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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Facts tell the story of I-STOP"

ALBANY, June 18 -- Not always, but sometimes the facts do, in fact, tell the whole story.

For example, consider the following:

> In 2010 in New York State, 22 million prescriptions for painkillers were issued — not including refills. In other words, New York’s health system wrote out roughly two million more prescriptions for pain medication than there are citizens in this state;

> According to one recent report, prescription painkiller overdoses account for 15,000 deaths and 475,000 emergency room visits nationwide annually – more than cocaine and heroin combined;

> A survey by the Partnership for a Drug Free America revealed that 19% of American teens, roughly 4.5 million youths, reported taking prescription painkillers to get high. Moreover, an estimated 70 percent of people who abuse prescription painkillers obtain them from friends or relatives who originally received the medication from a prescription.

We could go on and on with similarly alarming facts. But I think just these three alone are enough to make the whole story clear. It was stated this way in a State Senate Health Committee report earlier this year: “Like the rest of the nation, New York State is in the midst of a public health
crisis: prescription drug abuse. There are more prescription drugs on our streets and in our homes than ever before. The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released data showing only marijuana is abused with more frequency than prescription narcotics and more Americans die of prescription drug overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined.”

Likewise, law enforcement agencies across the nation point to prescription drug abuse as the most problematic drug threat today, one that leads to addiction, overdose, suicide, violence and illegal trafficking. The Senate Health Committee held its first public round table to focus New York government’s attention on this growing public health crisis last summer. That forum was followed by the release of the above-mentioned report, “The Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis in New York State: A Comprehensive Approach,” which set the stage for a rapidly reached consensus among Governor Andrew Cuomo, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Senate and Assembly leaders that a legislative response was needed.

This response arrived last week with the enactment of a comprehensive new law, being called the I-STOP Law, that immediately makes New York State a national leader in combating prescription drug abuse. I’ll make two overriding points on the new law.

First, it’s another indication that state government is working and being defined by a sense and a spirit of cooperation that’s been lacking for far too long. This action, and others either taken last week (the approval of stronger domestic violence laws) or in the works (new efforts to combat cyber bullying), show strong, bipartisan efforts to enact comprehensive and landmark legislation this session. We continue to work together to make New York a better and safer place.

The second -- and more critical -- point is that prescription drug abuse has emerged as one of America’s most alarming, tragic and urgent public health challenges. This action places New York at the forefront of addressing it and attempting to save lives, especially young lives.

Among many provisions, New York’s new prevention strategy will create a new and updated prescription monitoring program (I-STOP), make New York one of the first states to move from paper prescriptions to a system of electronic prescribing (e-prescribing), recognize the need for increased education among health care providers about the potential for abuse of controlled substances, and require the state health department to establish a program for the safe disposal of unused controlled substances by consumers.

You can read more about I-STOP, and find additional information and facts on prescription drug abuse, on my Senate website, (click on the “I-STOP LAW” icon in the left-hand column of the home page).

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 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 Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869