New York state Sen. Pete Harckham, of the Hudson Valley, is chair of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and is traveling the state listening to various stakeholders discuss issues surrounding drug abuse and addiction.

“This gives us, really, an ear to the folks who are providing services on the ground so we know what the gaps in the system are, and what the challenges they face in dealing with New York state are,” Harckham said.

At the end of the listening tour, Harckham is hoping to craft legislation to plug those gaps. 

Twenty-three of Harckham’s bills were passed during the last legislative session, many of which were inspired by conversations with stakeholders very much like the ones he’s having this summer.

Harckham told Capital Tonight that these conversations are “really reinforcing the need” to merge the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports because providers are finding that dealing with two regulatory systems is overly burdensome.

“What we are doing to folks is we are regulating them to death,” Harckham said.

He also mentioned the need for increased funding for housing, transportation, and harm reduction.

“We need to put more money into harm reduction. One of the positive signs, is the people in the field are telling us that (harm reduction) is working. They are seeing results. They just need more money to fund the mobile outreach,” Harckham said.

Harm reduction strategies include needle exchanges and safe injection sites.

During this leg of the trip, Harckham visited Cortland, Ithaca, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. Later in the summer, he will speak with providers and other stakeholders in the Adirondacks, the Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island.