Monday, January 21, 2019

Martin Luther King Day

Ronald Reagan:
"Each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. And I just have to believe that all of us -- if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King's dream comes true, and in his words, "All of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning. . . land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

(President Reagan, Coretta Scott King, Bob Dole and others at the signing ceremony for HR 3706 making the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday. 11/2/1983)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Former “Big pharma” CEO pleads guilty to opioid kickback scheme: Schuyler County among area counties suing ‘big pharma.’

The former chief executive of Insys Therapeutics Inc., one of the pharmaceutical companies being sued by Schuyler County and other area municipalities over prescription painkillers, pleaded guilty on Wednesday (January 9) to participating in a nationwide scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe an addictive opioid medication.

Michael Babich, who resigned as the company’s CEO in 2015, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy and mail fraud charges.  The federal government alleges that, from 2012 to 2015, Babich and others conspired to bribe doctors to prescribe Subsys, a prescription opiate for managing severe pain in cancer patients. 

Insys is one of the big pharmaceutical companies being sued by various New York State municipalities, including Schuyler County.  In May of last year, Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman filed a nearly 250-page Summons and Complaint for damages to the County arising out of the fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of opiates in the County. 

“This plea is potential evidence to Schuyler County,” Getman said.  “A criminal conviction establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and, in certain circumstances, can establish civil liability for fraudulent activity.”

“Under the plea, Insys paid doctors kickbacks in the form of fees to participate in speaker programs that were actually sham events,” Getman noted.  “The allegation that Insys created a sham ‘speaker program’ is part of our complaint.”

“Schuyler County’s lawsuit will move forward to seek reimbursement for expenses related to the opioid crisis as well as to provide the County with financial aid to fight addiction, overdoses, drug-related crimes and drug deaths,” Getman stated.

In 2017, the County Legislature voted to retain the firm of Napoli Shkolnik to work with Getman, as special counsel, to bring an action against the manufacturers and distributers of prescription opiates for damages to the County. 

According to Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, that lawsuit was filed at no risk to the County, as Napoli Shkolnik will work on contingency basis that will cover all costs associated with the lawsuit.

“By going forward with litigation, the County Legislature hopes to lessen the burden to taxpayers and hold manufacturers and distributors responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic,” O’Hearn said.

Schuyler County is one of several New York municipalities filing lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers.  At least 14 counties across New York are suing pharmaceutical companies for what they are claiming are deceptive marketing practices.

Also, in February 2018, New York State officials filed a lawsuit against Insys alleging that it deceptively promoted Subsys for unsafe uses and violated state law by downplaying drug’s addictive risks.

Babich's plea was made in Federal Court in Boston.

The counties' lawsuit is pending in Suffolk County, New York.

A complete copy of Schuyler County’s Summons and Complaint can be found here.

Monday, January 7, 2019

New report questions effectiveness of supervised drug consumption facilities

From the Washington Post:
(E)xisting research does not establish that drug users who access SDCFs are less likely to die of an overdose over time, or that opening an SDCF lowers a community’s rate of drug overdose fatalities...

The report found that many people use SDCFs intermittently, but do not adopt the safer use practices from SDCFs when using outside of it. An individual who injects heroin in the SDCF one day may thus avoid a fatal overdose that particular day, but have one the next day outside the SDCF. More importantly, no one knows whether becoming an SDCF user leads to longer drug use careers than do other interventions (e.g., methadone maintenance). If by making injection drug use safer and more positive (e.g., being surrounded by supportive people), SDCFs even modestly reduce the likelihood of an individual stopping injection use in the next week, or month, or year, the benefit of lower risk SDCF drug use now can be canceled out by an increased number of drug use episodes later.

Read the complete article here. Read the underlying report here.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Schuyler County seeks candidates for assistant county attorney position

Schuyler County is seeking to fill the position of Assistant County Attorney.  The position is full time, 35 hours per week, with excellent benefits.  Candidates must have been admitted to, and be a member of good standing with, the Bar in the State of New York and must be legal residents of Schuyler or a contiguous (Chemung, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins and Yates) county upon taking office and remain so during the entire term of appointment.

Salary commensurate with experience plus excellent benefit package. All candidates must submit a Civil Service application, along with a resume, a writing sample and three (3) professional references. Information must be submitted to the Schuyler County Civil Service office.  

Applications will be accepted until position is filled.  Interested candidates may visit the Schuyler County website ( for the application form and job description -or- contact the Schuyler County Civil Service Office, 105 9th Street, Unit 21, Watkins Glen, New York 14891. Phone: 607-535-8190

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Schuyler County Legislature Holds Reorganizational Meeting.

Republican Dennis Fagan, of Tyrone, was re-elected Chair of the Schuyler County Legislature at its annual reorganizational meeting held Wednesday (January 2, 2019).

The vote was 7-1 with the legislature’s sole democrat, Michael Lausell of Hector, as the one “no” vote. 

In other action, the legislature unanimously reappointed Tim O’Hearn of Watkins Glen as County Administrator for a four-year term.
Stacy Husted, of Montour Falls, remains clerk of the legislature and Steven Getman,  of Watkins Glen, continues as Schuyler County Attorney.

Prior to the voting, County Court Judge Dennis Morris administered the oath of office to re-elected legislators Carl Blowers (District V) and Phil Barnes (District VI).

The County of Schuyler is governed by an eight-person legislature, headed by its Chair.  Members serve staggered four-year terms.    The legislature, in turn, appoints various department heads to oversee the county’s day to day operations, including the county administrator, county attorney and clerk to the legislature.

The current members of the legislature are James W.D. Howell, Jr., Carl H. Blowers, David M. Reed, Michael L. Lausell, Mark F. Rondinaro, Van A. Harp, Philip C. Barnes and Dennis A. Fagan, Chairman

Monday, December 31, 2018

New laws for the New Year

New laws for New York in 2019:
Drug Take Back Act: A law that takes effect Jan. 6 requires drug stores and mail-order pharmacies to give consumers the ability to return unused prescription drugs through free drop boxes, pre-paid envelopes and other secure options.
Diaper changing tables in public bathrooms: Beginning Jan. 1, all new bathrooms that are publicly accessible must have diaper changing tables.
Body scanners in prisons: A new law that takes effect Jan. 30 will allow body scanners to be used on inmates in prisons across New York to detect hidden weapons.
Disability benefits for volunteer firefighters with cancer: Volunteer firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer will be eligible for state disability coverage beginning Jan. 1.
Minimum wage increase: In Upstate New York and areas outside of New York City and its suburbs, the minimum wage will increase from $10.40 per hour to $11.10 per hour.
Newborn testing: Beginning Jan. 30, newborns in New York state who are identified or suspected of having a hearing impairment will be required to be tested for cytomegalovirus, unless a parent objects.
Prostate screenings at no cost: A law effective Jan. 1 requires health insurers to provide men with access to prostate cancer screening without any co-pays or deductibles.
Property tax relief credit: Property tax rebate checks for STAR eligible homeowners with incomes of $275,000 or less who live in property tax compliant school districts.
For more on these new laws, click here.