A bipartisan group of lawmakers, law enforcement officials and experts are urging the New York State Legislature to pass a bill creating a computer system that will help combat the deadly epidemic of prescription drug abuse and its resulting crime wave.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman came to Long Island on Tuesday for the latest stop in his push for an online database enabling doctors and pharmacists to report and track prescriptions for the most commonly abused painkillers in real time. The proposed database is called Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing, or I-STOP.
“This is a problem that cannot be fixed with band-aid solutions,” Schneiderman said as a dozen officials flanked him at the Mineola offices of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, a nonprofit anti-drug advocacy group.
Schneiderman cited data that showed crisis drug treatment admissions increased 57 percent in Nassau and 40 percent in Suffolk from 2007 to 2010, and that overdose deaths due to prescription opioids more than tripled in Nassau during the same period.
The proposal comes as Nassau and Suffolk county police have recently trained officers and pharmacists on how best to deter robberies and detect so-called doctor shoppers—substance abusers who seek painkiller prescriptions from multiple doctors simultaneously. Authorities have also been cracking down on doctors who illegally sell painkiller prescriptions.
Support for the bill gained steam after an ATF agent was killed trying to stop a Seaford pharmacy robbery suspect who later was also shot dead on New Year’s Eve. That came six months after David Laffer shot and killed four people during a Medford drug-store holdup.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, a Republican, and District Attorney Kathleen Rice, a Democrat, said I-STOP would help law enforcement agencies identify patterns and doctors who overprescribe. The current system for tracking prescriptions is outdated, ineffective and underutilized, according to Democratic and Republican state Senators and Assembly members who also came to show support.
“We cannot wait. It should have been done a long time ago,” said Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), chairman of the state Senate health committee, who expressed disappointment that the bill has been held up while lawmakers continue tweaking the proposal. “We really need to move forward on a wide range of fronts; otherwise we’re going to lose a generation.”
Local doctors and pharmacists also have thrown their support behind the idea. Jordan Fogel, a Syosset pharmacist, hired an armed guard and installed bullet-proof glass to deter potential robbers.
“The current system is not doing enough,” he said at the press conference. “Right now I have no tools to check prescriptions aside from just calling doctors.”
Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of LICADD, said the issue is a matter of life and death.
“We need everyone on the same page if we’re going to save lives,” he said. “It shouldn’t take another round of murders.”