Parker seeks to expand local drug treatment centers

June 21, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
State Sen. Kevin Parker says the issue of drug and alcohol abuse is something he understands because he has lost family members. Photo courtesy of Parker’s office
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State Sen. Kevin Parker, the ranking member on the State Senate Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Committee, said the issue of drug addiction is deeply personal to him. “I have lost family members to substance abuse, and understand firsthand its devastating effects on individuals and their families,” he said in a remarkably candid statement this week.

As the legislative session wound down in Albany, Parker (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Ditmas Park) announced that he has introduced a series of bills aimed at combating drug abuse in New York state.

One piece of Parker’s proposed legislation would establish a public awareness educational program on the dangers of heroin. Another bill would expand community chemical dependency treatment programs. 

Parker charged that for many years when the drug epidemic was largely found in communities of color, the problem was treated as a law enforcement issue but that when the use of opioids and heroin started to increase in middle-class communities, the focus turned to treating addiction as a health care issue. 

“Nevertheless, I remain eager and faithful to creating meaningful laws to combat drug abuse, while affording fairness and justice to communities that have been torn apart by the so-called war on drugs,” Parker said. 

Parker pointed to a 26-year old man named Steve Vargas as an example of someone who successfully sought help for a drug problem from a community-based drug rehabilitation program, the type of program the lawmaker’s bill is seeking to bolster.

Vargas is identified in a press release issued by Parker’s office as a person who battled drug and alcohol abuse for two years, lost his job as a food handler in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and ended up suffering from depression. 

Vargas received help from Cornerstone Treatment Facilities Network and was able to overcome his addiction.

“Although I am grateful for the support of my family and the staff at Cornerstone, I wish more could be done around prevention,” Vargas stated. “As a teenager growing up in New York City, drugs and alcohol are often glamorized by our peers. I wish more could be done to show youth, such as myself, the negative effects of drugs and alcohol.”

Parker’s proposed legislation has been endorsed by anti-drug groups such as the Fortune Society and the Drug Policy Alliance.

“We applaud Sen. Parker’s efforts to create legislation that will increase community awareness and education, while reducing the stigma associated with seeking necessary mental health and substance treatment,” said Fortune Society President and CEO JoAnne Page. 

Dionna King, policy coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance, said solving the drug epidemic will take a comprehensive approach.

“Our staff knows that addressing problematic drug use will require comprehensive approaches and evidence-based solutions that can help save lives, reduce criminalization and address racial disparities. This package of legislation proposed by Sen. Parker will create access to effective, community-based care and provide much-needed education on appropriate responses to overdose,” King said.



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