More than two dozen Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate on Wednesday formally called on President Joe Biden and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency at the federal and state levels amid a sharp rise in overdose deaths in the last year.
The letter was released by state Sen. Peter Harckham, the top lawmaker on the Senate Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Committee, who earlier this month made a similar call for the state of emergency.
Such a declaration would enable state and federal officials to gain access to resources to address the problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month found overdose deaths between 2019 and 2020 increased to more than 93,000 people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harckham has also blamed a lack of attention to programs to fight substance abuse in New York. Meanwhile, the state is in line to receive billions of dollars from drug makers and other companies as part of a nationwide settlement surrounding the opioid crisis.
In the letter, lawmakers called for a broad effort to address overdoses and drug addiction, including an expansion of prevention, treatment and recovery services as well as supportive housing as well as fully staffed crisis intervention centers.
“It is clear that the Federal Government and the State of New York need to marshal every public health resource possible to stop the frightening increase in overdose deaths that are occurring every day in our cities and villages,” the letter states. “Federal and state officials have to act with utmost urgency and work together to save the lives of our friends and neighbors here in New York and around the country."