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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Fighting first-time drug use, and abuse"

ALBANY, June 24, 2018 -- Keep in mind the following: According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), more than 70% of teenagers get their hands on prescription drugs for the first time from family and friends -- more often than not, unused drugs found, for example, in the household medicine cabinet.

Furthermore, studies show that first-time drug and alcohol use peaks during the summer, especially in June. More than 2,500 teens try prescription drugs for the first time on an average day in June. Commonly, the drugs they use are the unused medications they find at home, or at a friend’s house.

Studies also highlight the strong link between opioid-based prescription painkillers, and heroin and opioid addictions and overdoses. The bottom line is that prescription painkillers can be, in the words of one study, a “pathway to addiction.”

All of the above is precisely why National Drug Take Back Days are so important in the ongoing fight against this epidemic. Providing community residents with an accessible, convenient, easy way to get rid of unused prescription medications is a proven first line of defense. Restricting access is one of the most effective ways to help fight first-time use and prevent abuse.

Consequently, one of the key actions of the just-concluded legislative session is the Legislaturer’s overwhelming approval of the “Drug Take Back Act.” I proudly sponsored this legislation in the Senate. It would be a critical tool to address the abuse of prescription painkillers. It would also help prevent unused drugs from contaminating community water supplies.

Specifically, our Drug Take Back Act calls for the establishment of an industry-funded, statewide pharmaceutical drug take-back program. Importantly, the Act calls for a “product stewardship” approach to the challenge of disposing of unwanted prescription medications. Product stewardship is based on the idea that the manufacturers, producers or sellers of a product should take responsibility for minimizing the product's environmental- and health-related impacts throughout all stages of its life cycle, including disposal, recycling or destruction. I sponsor similar legislation to facilitate the recycling of unused paint, for example.

In this instance, pharmaceutical manufacturers would be responsible for all costs including public education and awareness, as well as the collection, transport and destruction of unwanted or unused prescriptions. The legislation further requires chain pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies to provide consumers with on-site collection, prepaid mail-back envelopes or other federally approved methods to encourage safe drug disposal.

We must do anything and everything we possibly can to complement and support the efforts of local law enforcement and other community leaders to combat prescription drug abuse. These efforts include participating in National Prescription Drug Take Back Days and other similar initiatives to facilitate the collection, and safe and responsible disposal, of unused medications.

The just-approved Drug Take Back Act would greatly expand the number of permanent, locally based drop-off locations. It would be a very positive, cost-effective addition to New York State's ongoing, overall strategy to protect our communities and local environments.

The legislation now goes to Governor Andrew Cuomo for final action. I hope the governor will recognize that the Drug Take Back Act would create a unified, statewide drug take-back program that would save taxpayer dollars and reduce medication misuse. Additionally, the program would protect New York State’s waterways by helping prevent the improper disposal of unused drugs, by flushing for example.

I will be doing my best, in other words, to encourage the governor to sign the Drug Take Back Act into law.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Carl Blowers, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Carl Blowers

Van Harp

Jim Howell

David M. Reed

Michael Lausell

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Harriett Vickio, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2017
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869