The top state lawmaker on the Senate Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Committee on Wednesday called for better funding of treatment programs amid a rise in overdose deaths between 2019 and 2020 across the country.

“Funds from the opioid settlements that are being directed to states around the country need to be put to use fast," said Sen. Peter Harckham. "We need to invest and reinvest in evidence-based treatment for Substance Use Disorder and harm reduction. We need to ramp up community-based behavioral health supports and prevention efforts, year after year. And we need to eliminate treatment disparities that exist in low-income communities."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday reported a 29% rise in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic. The spike means more than 93,000 people in the country last year died of an overdose as people were kept apart and had their lives upended by the virus.

But Harckham didn't place all of the blame on the pandemic on the rise in fatalities and called for an expedited deployment of money from opioid settlements, which has netted New York millions of dollars in recent years.

"For too long, the fight against the opioid crisis has been underfunded — and misunderstood," he said. "It is time to effectively deal with this national epidemic and commit proper resources to help those grappling with Substance Use Disorder.”