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Families Impacted By Opioids Call On New York To Reallocate Funds Received In Settlements For New Treatments

LONG ISLAND (CBSNewYork) -- States across the nation are beginning to see the first of millions of dollars of opioid settlement funds come in.

But as CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday, treatment experts in New York are not happy with how some of that money is being spent.

Sharon Richmond of Northport blames drug companies that sold pain relief to her only child, Vincent D'Antoni, and minimized the risks.

"I was trying to tell him that oxycodone was addictive and so dangerous and he would show me this research that denied it. They were saying it was not addictive," Richmond said.

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She's calling on the state to turn tragedy into more treatment.

The first round of settlements from opioid lawsuits brings in $32 million to New York, but advocates claim the money is being spent on existing programs, rather than increasing prevention, treatment and education.

Only $11 million ia going to new services.

"The other $21 million went into New York state's general fund to build bridges and tunnels and to fill budget gaps and that's absolutely inexcusable," said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds of the Family and Children's Association.

Advocates say Albany must legislate that all future settlement funds are used to clean up the mess caused by opioid manufacturers and marketers in an epidemic raging worse than ever.

"I will be damned if I see a dollar go to fixing a pothole. Do we need potholes fixed? Absolutely. That's not what this money is about," said Anthony Rizzuto of Families In Support of Treatment (F.I.S.T.).

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Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the New York State Division of Budget, told CBS2, "New York state spends about $1.5 billion annually combatting opioid addiction and has fought hard to ensure those who prospered from the crisis pay a price that offsets these costs, and all $28 million the state will receive from this settlement in fiscal year 2022 is dedicated to the fight against opioids as approved by the Legislature in the budget it passed this month.

"This includes $11 million to increase support for medication-assisted treatment in state prisons, with the remainder supporting ongoing prevention and treatment efforts throughout the state. Meanwhile, the federal government is adding $105 million to the effort to combat addiction in New York over the next two years." the state spends $1.5 billion annually combatting opioid addiction and all $28 million the state will receive from this settlement this year is dedicated to the fight," Klopott added.

Critics say it's a shell game since it adds little new funding for desperately needed treatment D'Antoni never got.

"He was denied treatment the year before he passed away," Richmond said.

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Advocates say they don't trust the process for good reason -- the tobacco settlement billions didn't all go to promised smoking cessation programs.

Now is the time, they say, to lockbox these opioid funds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, overdose deaths have risen above 87,000 during the coronavirus pandemic, the highest number since the opioid crisis began.

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