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Vice President, Communications & Advocacy
May 20, 2019
Good morning everyone, and welcome.
We are grateful to our presenting sponsor, BlueShield of Northeastern New York, and to Stericycle for sponsoring the seventh stop of the Prescribed to Death Memorial. Thank you to our additional sponsors.
We couldn’t do this without Schneider National shipping the memorial from Chicago and Empire State Plaza Convention Center hosting us in this wonderful space.
The National Safety Council has a century-long history of working with individuals, organizations, business leaders and federal agencies in our mission to eliminate preventable deaths.
Today, we have 15,000 member companies keeping people safe wherever they are.
Everything we do is possible because of partnerships, and Avi Israel with Save the Michaels Of the World was there from the very beginning. Michael’s story has been weaved into the heart of this memorial. When Prescribed to Death came to Buffalo last year, Avi said we must go to Albany next. And today it’s such an honor to be here with you all, as Michael’s legacy lives on.
I’m so glad that Commissioner Gonzales-Sanchez, Assemblyman McDonald and County Executive McCoy are joining us today.
As we have travelled across the country, from Chicago to Washington D.C., nearly 90% of Memorial visitors have told us they would change their behavior as a result of what they have learned. We know we are making an impact.
We know that New York State is also making an impact by reducing prescribing, improving access to treatment and reducing stigma for people in recovery. Just two weeks ago, Governor Cuomo announced the first recovery tax credit program to incentivize employers to hire people who are in recovery.
We need fearless leadership willing to do the right thing. Because the cost of doing nothing is too high.
In 2017, New York State lost more than 3,900 people to drug overdoses. 82% involved opioids. This scenario has played out across nearly every community in the nation.
In the U.S., one in four are addicted themselves, know someone who is, or know someone who has died as a result.
This memorial portrays 22,000 people, but the reality is that since 2015 – opioid-related deaths have more than doubled.
The most important part of this epidemic is not the statistics, but the faces on the wall. The data speak to our minds but the individual stories speak to our hearts.
The memorial not only brings visitors face-to-face with this everyday killer, but also encourages actions that will help us eliminate these preventable deaths.
First: Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks of opioids.
Despite all the news coverage, we’ve found one-third of opioid users who are prescribed them don’t realize their medication is an opioid drug.
We have distributed over 1 million free ‘Warn Me’ labels so the public and practitioners can have a conversation about the risks and alternatives to opioids.
The second thing we want everyone to do is: Clean out your medicine cabinets.
We know 64% of users don’t get their pills from a valid prescription. Many obtain them from friends or family, so removing pills from circulation is crucial.
We partnered with Stericycle to hand out Seal & Send envelopes for safe disposal of unused medications.
Both the envelopes and warn me labels are available for free at NSC.org/TakeAction.
If you are moved by what you see today, spread the word. Tell your friends and family to come visit this week. Put a Warn Me label on your insurance card. Clean out your medicine cabinet. Together we can make an impact far and wide beyond Albany, to ensure others don’t end up on this wall.
Introduction for Commissioner Gonzales
Commissioner González-Sánchez is a member of the governor’s cabinet, overseeing one of the nation’s premier addiction services systems, with more than 1,600 programs that serve more than 100,000 New Yorkers daily.
Under her leadership, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services is committed to providing quality care for the estimated 2.5 million New Yorkers who struggle with an addiction through a core system of prevention, treatment and recovery services.
On a national level, Commissioner González-Sánchez serves as the first vice president of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors Board.
Please join me in welcoming Commissioner Gonzales-Sanchez.
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