February 17, 2015
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Next Phase of Statewide Combat Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Campaign

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces Next Phase of...

Messages Posted on Highways, Mass Transit and Shopping Malls; Online and Television PSAs to Air Statewide


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the next phase of the statewide #CombatHeroin and Prescription Drug Abuse awareness campaign to address the opioid epidemic in New York. The campaign includes messages on billboards, posters, online advertisements, social media and commercials that will be aired across the state for four weeks. The messaging warns that alcohol overuse and abuse of prescription opioid medications are often a gateway to heroin use, and refers those who need help to New York State's 24-hour addiction HOPEline.

"Our efforts to fight heroin and prescription drug abuse are raising awareness and helping to save lives in communities across New York," Governor Cuomo said. "Heroin addiction can often start with other forms of drug use – and with this next phase of the Combat Heroin campaign, we are working to break this cycle of abuse before it starts."

The Combat Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse campaign is launching online advertisements that will appear on social media and select websites, and includes commercials underscoring the message, "addiction can happen to anyone, at any time – however, there is help available" to run on network and cable television stations. The videos used in online and broadcast commercials can be viewed HERE.

Awareness posters will appear on the Staten Island Ferry, Staten Island subway lines, Long Island Rail Road trains, and at select Amtrak stations and malls in Poughkeepsie and Rockland County. The campaign's billboards will appear on highways in Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Westchester County. Photos of a sample poster and billboard can be viewed HERE and HERE.

New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "Studies have shown that alcohol use can be a gateway to use of prescription drugs, heroin and other illicit drugs, especially in young people. Many of the young people that appear in the campaign PSAs and the website's 'Real Story' videos shared that their progression to heroin often started with alcohol and pain pills. This campaign helps get the message out that underage drinking, alcohol abuse, and illicit drug use can quickly spiral out of control resulting in serious addiction and devastating consequences."

The #CombatHeroin website hosts 22 videos of New Yorkers describing first-hand how they or their loved ones progressed from alcohol to marijuana to heroin or prescription opioids and the devastation the addiction caused. Four of these videos will be used in television commercials.

Cortney, a young woman in recovery from heroin addiction who is featured in a campaign PSA, said, "I was 15 when I first tried alcohol. That didn't last long until it progressed to marijuana. Within a matter of months I was using pills all day long and by the time I was 17 I had tried heroin for the first time." Today, after Cortney received treatment and support, she is a national program officer for Young People in Recovery and a living example that recovery is real.

Heroin addiction and prescription opioid abuse are persistent national problems that reach deep into communities across New York and most heavily affect young adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 15,000 people die every year of overdoses involving prescription painkillers nationwide, and nearly 4,400 died last year from heroin use – double that of 2011. In 2014, there were more than 118,000 admissions into New York State-certified treatment programs for heroin and prescription opioid abuse – a 17.8% increase over 2009. The largest increase in opioid admissions during that time was patients ages 18 to 34.

Governor Cuomo has made this issue a priority and implemented aggressive measures to help New Yorkers address heroin addiction and prescription opioid abuse. The Governor launched the #CombatHeroin campaign in September 2014 to inform and educate New Yorkers about the risks of heroin and prescription opioid use, the warning signs of addiction, and the resources available to help. Additionally, the Governor launched the expanded first responder training program that in part requires every SUNY and CUNY police officer to be trained to respond to an opioid overdose by using Narcan. More than 40,000 New Yorkers are now trained – including nearly 3,800 law enforcement officers – and more than 1,100 lives have been saved.

New Yorkers seeking help can access prevention, treatment and recovery information on the #CombatHeroin website or by calling the State's HOPEline at 1-877-846-7369. A list of treatment providers in New York State is available here.

New Yorkers who want to help are encouraged to share posters, billboards and PSAs in their local communities or become trained in anti-opioid overdose response. Combat Heroin campaign materials, including fact sheets and informational flyers, are available in English, Spanish and Russian on the #CombatHeroin website. Information about anti-opioid overdose training is available here.

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office

NYC Press Office:  212.681.4640

Albany Press Office:  518.474.8418