Congressman Eliot L. Engel, a top member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, talked about how the nationwide opioid epidemic has impacted the Bronx and Westchester during this this morning’s full committee hearing entitled Federal Efforts to Combat the Opioid Crisis: A Status Update on CARA & Other Initiatives (as prepared for delivery):
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Pallone for convening today’s hearing.
This epidemic has touched so many people in each of our districts, in so many ways. I’d like to talk about the specific challenges facing Westchester County and the Bronx.
“I represent a large portion of Westchester, where opioid-related deaths shot up more than 200 percent between 2010 and 2015. But that changed in 2016, when the rate of opioid-related deaths in Westchester fell nearly 30 percent. Evidence suggests this was thanks to the overdose reversal drug, naloxone. Between 2015 and 2016, Westchester EMS workers and law enforcement began using naloxone much more frequently, following state and local efforts to make naloxone more accessible and ensure first responders know how to use it.
“This shows what’s possible when we afford communities the resources they need. Congress must continue to invest the necessary funds to respond to the opioid epidemic and support proven public health approaches spanning the entire spectrum, from prevention to recovery.
“I am so encouraged to see a devastating trend reversed in Westchester. But this battle is far from over. Naloxone is certainly a life-saver – but it could also be a game-changer. If we can connect people with treatment after they’ve overdosed, we might save even more lives.
“Sadly, we’re not seeing the same signs of hope in the Bronx. More New Yorkers died of overdoses in the Bronx than in any other City borough last year. 85 percent of those deaths involved opioids.
“Despite their proximity, Westchester and the Bronx have many differences. On average, communities in the Bronx have fewer resources. The uninsured rate is higher. And communities are more diverse. So, the disparity we’re seeing in the trajectory of these counties’ opioid epidemics is also an economic disparity and a racial disparity. The consequences of these disparities are heartbreaking. Your zip code should not determine your health.
“We need to do better. Thank you.”
In addition, Congressman Engel met last week in his office with Ron Corti, President and CEO of St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers, as well as advocates from the hospital to discuss their efforts to fight the opioid epidemic locally. Also in attendance were State Senator Terrence Murphy and Westchester County Legislator David Tubiolo.