Submitted by ub on Wed, 06/18/2014 - 20:52

The New York Legislature has reached an agreement that will be significant in the fight against heroin.

In Albany today, The Governor and legislative leaders announced an agreement on a series of bills to help address the growing heroin and opioid epidemic, as well as prescription drug abuse, in New York State. Included in the legislation:

New programs and insurance reforms to improve treatment options for individuals suffering from heroin and opioid addiction;

Measures to strengthen penalties and put in place additional tools for law enforcement to crack down on the distribution of illegal drugs;

Provisions to ensure the proper and safe use of naloxone; and
Support for enhanced public awareness campaigns to prevent drug abuse.

Video of the Governor’s remarks is available on YouTube:

06 18 14 Albany Combating Heroin:

"Thank you all very much for taking the time to come down. I would like to welcome the members of the Senate and the members of the Assembly who are here today, as well as the legislative leaders who you will hear from in a moment. We have good news—we have reached agreement on a piece of legislation that we believe will be significant in our fight and effort and struggle against heroin.

"It is probably the top priority for the end of this legislation session. I know it is a bill that has been the top priority for me. I believe I speak for my colleagues when I say the same thing. This is a terrible problem that is facing the state.

"They say in substance abuse, drug abuse treatment, the first step is to admit the reality, right? Denial is not an option and we should not deny the problem we currently have with heroin. It is growing. It is growing exponentially. New York has a much more aggravated problem than the rest of the country. The numbers in New York are worse; the numbers in the Northeast are worse than the rest of the country. One third of all of the seizures of heroin were in the State of New York, nationwide.

"It is also worse in some ways—people say, “Well, we had heroin in the 60s and 70s”—this heroin epidemic is worse than the heroin epidemic in the 60s and the 70s. The drug is more potent. The drug is less expensive: you are talking about five dollar bags, ten dollars bags. It is more addictive. It has affected younger people. Sixties, 70s heroin average age for the user was 28 to 30 years older. This is late teens and getting younger as time moves on. So it is a significant problem for sure.

"This legislation does a number of things. First of all, it makes it easier for an individual to get treatment because it makes it easier for insurance companies to actually cover the treatment. "There has been a lot of confusion with insurance companies not covering treatment for heroin and opioid addiction, or disputing coverage and making treatment much harder and much less accessible for an individual. By this piece of legislation the state will issue a definition of what is medically necessary, and there will be one standard definition of what is medically necessary, so insurance companies, frankly can’t play games and decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t get treatment. That will be a major step forward.

"In terms of public safety, this piece of legislation increases penalties for practitioners and pharmacists who abuse their position by selling controlled substances to patients illegally. It takes it from a D felony to a C felony which means that the maximum sentence goes to five and a half years instead of two and a half years. We are also giving law enforcement more tools to prosecute organized criminal activity by adding the sale of prescription drugs to the Enterprise Corruption Act. We have an education component where SED will update their curriculum on substance abuse to speak specifically to heroin and to opioids, and we have a public awareness campaign that we are going to launch to talk to parents and providers about this problem.

Last week I announced some executive actions. We spoke about doubling the number of state police in the narcotics detail, 100 more troopers. That will continue. And also we had signed a Good Samaritan, 9/11 law several years back and that law will also be applicable to this situation.

"I believe that this is a comprehensive approach. It has a public safety component, also has a public health component, and also has a public awareness campaign. I think you put this together with the actions of the state police who have already been doing great work on this issue and I think the state will have a very, very comprehensive approach.

"We have to remember that government is not always the answer. Right? Government is not going to solve the heroin problem. It takes all of us. It is parents, it is friends, it is peers, it is community leaders but we are doing our part.

"I want to applaud the sponsors of this bill who worked very hard. This was not an easy agreement to reach. I’d like to applaud the legislative leaders who also worked very hard. It is a complex topic. There were very strong opinions and compromise is always right in concept, but it is difficult to reach in practice. So I want to thank the legislative leaders once again for their good work."