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Two NYS Proposals Miss Root Causes Of Drug Epidemic, Says Public Health Professor


ITHACA, NY (WSKG) - Last week, New York state senator Tom O’Mara announced he will re-introduce legislation to address methamphetamine-related crimes in the state.

The same day New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced more funding for opioid treatment.

A Syracuse University professor thinks both of these approaches ignore the underlying causes of the drug crisis.

O’Mara represents the state’s 58th senate district which includes much of the Southern Tier where more meth has been coming into the area for the past three years.

The Republican said he will re-introduce bills to create harsher penalties for some meth-related crimes like fires and labs near children.

"This new legislation is really nothing but a doubling down on the 1980s failed war on drugs. It’s like we’ve learned nothing from the failures of our drug policies over the past forty years," said Shannon Monnat, sociology professor at Syracuse University, who specializes in public health.

Earlier this year, Cuomo pledged $1.2 billion toward opioid treatment in 2018. Monnat agrees there’s a need for more treatment. But she said this, too, misses the root causes of the problem.

"If we were to invest similar money into revitalizing social infrastructure and economic infrastructure and our educational system we would see long term benefits," said Monnat.

When it comes to those root causes, Monnat said big economic development projects with taxpayers subsidies, like the Amazon deal in New York City or the Tesla Solar plant in Buffalo, might not help either.

"Unless Amazon or Tesla are going to provide the types of jobs that were available 30 years ago -- that are secure, livable wage, and that come with benefits -- I don’t see those types of jobs really helping to deal with the current problem that we have of lack of opportunity for people without a college degree," said Monnat.

Ultimately, Monnat said politicians are looking for quick fixes because of their short terms in office and public health in the U.S. too often treats problems after they appear.

Both those outlooks need to change, she said, to get a grip on the current drug epidemic and prevent future ones.