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Health advocates push for more drug prevention funding at Capitol rally

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Albany/HV: Health advocates push for more drug prevention funding at Capitol rally
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Therese McHale, 22, is a recovering drug addict.

"I remember sticking that needle in my arm and wondering how I'd become that monster," McHale said. "Heroin truly stole all my dreams, my life, all my family."

McHale started using heroin and abusing prescription drugs when she was just 15 years old and in middle school.

Several years later, she realized she needed to get help but finding it wasn't easy.

"They were truly unavailable and it took a long time to get into a treatment facility and start my journey into recovery," said McHale.

Tuesday, McHale was joined by state lawmakers, non-profit group The New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers (ASAP), and others at the State Capitol in Albany Tuesday to send a message to the legislature.

"Pass a budget which includes resources for prevention treatment and recovery that is sufficient to address this epidemic," said ASAP's Executive Director John Coppola.

"This devastating problem in our state immediately. There's no more time to wait," Senator Phil Boyle (R) 4th Senate District said.

Standing together on Lobby Day, the group called for $15 million to be added to the state budget to open more drug treatment facilities across the state and get heroin and prescription drug addicts the help they need.

Members of the Senate Alcohol and Drug Abuse Committee said steps have been taken to limit drug abuse, but the chair of the committee said he hasn't noticed much of a difference.

"I get phone calls just about on a daily basis," Sen. Boyle said. "From parents, from students themselves, saying we have a drug problem in our family, our child is suffering, he or she is addicted and we cannot find treatment, we cannot find a bed for them."

Boyle said heroin addiction has increased over the last year partly because of a New York State law that went into effect in 2013. The I-Stop law limits the amount of prescription drugs distributed.

Boyle said heroin is cheaper than a pack of cigarettes and becomes a dangerous option.

McHale said if lawmakers don't act now, it will likely be a deadly option.

"You don't see many old heroin addicts. If they don't take the opportunity, then I don't know," said McHale.

Members of the Senate Alcohol and Drug Abuse Committee said legislation is in the works to make the drug Narcan more accessible. Narcan is a drug that emergency responders use to prevent heroin overdoses. They'd like to get that bill to the floor as soon as possible.

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