ALBANY N.Y. (WTEN) — Attorney General Tish James distributes historic opioid settlement funds to the capital region. These funds come as a result of the $1.5 billion James settled from manufacturers and distributors of opioids.

The Attorney General says her goal is to save lives today and tomorrow by focusing on prevention, education and treatment. 

“These funds will go a long way in supporting those who need it the most. And particularly those counties in upstate NY who need it,” said James.  

PREVENTION: Holding big pharma accountable for the mess that was started when they flooded the market with mismarked opioid pills years ago. 

“Basically we are holding them accountable for their actions. We’ve received a significant amount of resources to address the scourge of opioids and to address the devastation and destruction they’ve caused to the great state of New York,” she said.

EDUCATION: Teaching students about the consequences of opioid use and misuse.

“There are more resources in our communities today to teach young people about the dangers of drugs and opioids, to prevent someone from misusing a pain killer for the first time.” 

And TREATMENT: “To treat people who are struggling with addiction and to save people from dying of an overdose,” the Attorney General said.

While these measures won’t undo the past, it’s a step forward in the right direction. “I made a promise to families as all of us did today that we would hold these companies accountable. We promise to bring some semblance of justice for what has been taken from them,” said James.

Over 47,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2017. Studies showed a decrease in overdose deaths in 2018 which spiked back up in early 2020. The Rockefeller Institute points to the pandemic being a driving factor with increase in isolation and a lack of access to resources for those battling addiction. 

Senator Peter Harchkem is 36 years sober and chair of  the Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Committee. He says harm reduction and recovery are also major components the state must invest in to keep New Yorkers safe. 

“Naloxone and getting Narcan out into the hands of folks so that’s where the harm reduction piece comes in. Treatment obviously, inpatient, outpatient, opening slots and making sure we have people to staff those beds, that was a big issue this year,” said Harchkam.

The Senator is working to pass legislation that makes information on opioid sales more publicly available  . He wants to ensure there’s more transparency among providers as a means to holding them more accountable.