Paul Tonko portrait 2015

Congressman Tonko Launches Major Push on Opioid Epidemic Tied to State of the Union

Following resolution of the federal government shutdown with no action taken to address the opioid epidemic, Congressman Paul D. Tonko (D-NY)Do will spend the week before and after the January 30th State of the Union highlighting the issue and pushing for concrete progress.


  1. Visit to Albany County Jail:Thursday, January 25th@ 2:30PM, 840 Albany Shaker Road, Albany, NY – Congressman Tonko will receive a detailed briefing on the Sheriff’s Heroin Addiction Recovery Program (SHARP), a leading program supporting individuals who suffer from addiction as they transition out of incarceration and continue their recovery. Participants will include: Sheriff Craig D. Apple Sr, superintendent of the correctional facility Michael Lyons, Albany County correctional facilities program director Theron Rockwell, K CSAC / substance abuse director Joan Wennstrom and chief deputy of the law-enforcement division/special project manager Kerry B. Thompson.

OPEN PRESS: video/photos will be welcomed, event will include press availability.

Why? Individuals transitioning out of incarceration who suffer from addiction are eight times (8x) more likely to die of an overdose in their first week after transition. Congressman Tonko has introduced legislation, the Medicaid Reentry Act, which would move up the date at which these individuals would be eligible for Medicaid support prior to their transition out of incarceration, ensuring greater access to treatment and continuity of care. Medicaid eligibility is one of the most important sources of care and treatment for individuals with substance use disorder.

  1. Faces of Addiction and Recovery:Saturday, January 27th@ 11:00AM, Tonko Albany District Office, 19 Dove St, Albany, NY: Congressman Tonko will host a roundtable discussion with constituents from the 20th Congressional District of New York at his district office in Albany.

 OPEN PRESS: video/photos will be welcomed. The Congressman and some participants will be available for interviews at the same location immediately after the discussion.

Why? Congressman Tonko will convene the second in his Faces of the Capital Region constituent roundtable series, hearing from individuals who have experienced or been impacted by addiction. This event will occur four days before the State of the Union Address and is intended to put a local face on an issue of grave national importance.

  1. State of the Union:Tuesday, January 30th@ 7:00PM, House Chamber, Washington, DC: Congressman Tonko will be joined by special guest Brendan Norton to attend the President’s State of the Union Address in the House Chamber.

PRESS AVAIL: In-person and phone interviews with Brendan & Rep. Tonko will be scheduled on a first-come first-served basis. Email requests to: [email protected].

Special Guest Speaker Brendan Norton

Bio: Official guest Brendan Norton was born in Stillwater, NY and currently resides in Saratoga Springs. After a life threatening leg injury at the age 23, numerous surgeries and intense physical therapy, Brendan became addicted to prescription opiate pain killers. That addiction hounded him as he worked to earn a bachelor’s degree from Siena College in marketing/management in 2010. After struggling with addiction for many years, Brendan got on the path to recovery. He earned a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University at Buffalo with a 4.0 GPA. Brendan recently started a new job as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and is now working at The Prevention Council as a Family Support Navigator helping families impact by addiction to build resilience.


The Centers for Disease Control have estimated that drug overdoses killed 64,000 people in 2016 – an increase of 21% over 2015, comparable to the number of gun and traffic fatalities combined and a higher death toll than we saw at the peak of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1990s.

Congressman Tonko has a proven record advancing policy in this area, including most recently the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that included legislation by Tonko to expand the ability of doctors and certain advanced practice nurses to prescribe medication-assisted treatments (MAT).

In the current session of Congress, Rep. Tonko has proposed two major pieces of legislation to combat the spread of addiction and support those working to recover:

  • H.R. 3692 – the Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act would build on progress made under CARA, adding additional nursing specialists to those able to prescribe MAT and codifying a cap increase for the number of MAT patients doctors can treat at any given time.
  • H.R. 4005 – the Medicaid Reentry Act would allow states to restart Medicaid benefits for beneficiaries leaving jail or prison 30 days before release.
  • Leads annual effort in House of Representatives to secure funding for the Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Block Grant and a major proponent for the Drug Free Communities program which serve as the backbone to our drug prevention efforts.

In his first year President Donald Trump established an opioid commission, which one member just recently described as a “sham” and a “charade.” The commission issued recommendations late last year that were largely ignored. The President eventually declared the opioid epidemic an emergency, which has led to no additional resources or action to-date. Most recently, the President proposed a 95 percent cut to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the primary office tasked with responding to the opioid crisis.

Congressman Paul Tonko represents New York’s 20th District, representing all of Albany and Schenectady Counties and parts of Montgomery, Rensselaer and Saratoga Counties. A member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Subcommittee on Research and Technology, he is currently serving in his fifth term in Congress.

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