LOUDONVILLE — Ninety percent of New Yorkers agree that the opioid crisis is more insidious than previous public health crises, as overdosing on some opioids, including heroin and fentanyl, is killing people at previously unheard of rates, according to a Siena College Research Institute poll.

More than three-quarters say that addiction to opioids is a disease and should be treated as a disease just like cancer or heart failure, and 79 percent say that the opioid crisis is another sign that we have an untreated mental health crisis. The results reflect Part IV of the SCRI poll.

Seventy-two percent agree that the pharmaceutical companies must be held legally and financially responsible for the crisis, and 75 percent support charging New York’s attorney general to initiate legal proceedings.

“Despite recognizing that the opioid crisis is killing people more rapidly that other previous public health events, and that opioid abuse shows us that we have an untreated mental health crisis, New Yorkers are evenly divided on whether or not people that abuse opioids should pay the price of their personal choices,” says SCRI director Don Levy. “Half say it is not up to the rest of us to fix their problems.”

Ninety percent of New Yorkers support strengthening the prescription monitoring service to prevent consumers from “doctor shopping,” and 82 percent are in favor of punishing doctors that are shown to over-prescribe opioids.

A majority, 59 percent, favor increasing support to syringe exchange programs, 60 percent support improving access to medications like methadone and buprenorphine, themselves opioids, as a way to wean addicts off other opioids, and 85 percent agree that we should make Naloxone or Narcan, the medication used to block the effects of opioids, readily and freely available to law enforcement and medical professionals.

By 59 to 41 percent, New Yorkers oppose increasing funding for supervised injection sites where it would be safe to use heroin.

The survey is part of a community effort by Prescription for Progress: United Against Opioid Addiction, a coalition of leaders in healthcare, media, law enforcement, education and business in New York’s Capital Region committed to raising awareness and taking positive steps to address the crisis.

Prescription for Progress seeks to unite businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to strive toward the shared goal of fighting addiction. An upcoming survey by SCRI, also commissioned by Prescription for Progress, will poll professionals working to address opioid abuse.

“Most New Yorkers want to hold drug companies financially responsible for the crisis, punish doctors found to be over-prescribing, and strengthen prescription monitoring,” Levy says. “We support making Narcan more available and improving access to methadone as well as increasing support for needle exchange programs, but we oppose increasing funding for supervised injection sites. …

“Clearly this crisis, that is touching the lives of a majority of New Yorkers,” Levy says, “demands not only all hands on deck but also, collaborative efforts across law enforcement, treatment, medical professionals, community leaders, elected officials and all concerned citizens to address this problem from every direction.”

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