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Andrew Cuomo,Sheldon Silver
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, right, raises Gov. Andrew Cuomo's arm after Cuomo said he is pliable during a news conference in the Red Room at the Capitol on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Cuomo Announces Agreement on Bills to Battle Heroin



Albany, NY (WBEN) Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders today announced an agreement has been reached on a series of bills to help address the growing heroin and opioid epidemic, as well as prescription drug abuse.

"Heroin abuse is a public health crisis in the state of New York, and a top priority for the end of session was to reach an agreement on an effective bill to combat this epidemic. Today I am proud to say that together, we have achieved th
at," Governor Cuomo said. “By introducing tougher laws and new programs to protect all New Yorkers – especially the youngest in our communities, who represent a frightening share of heroin victims – we are taking an aggressive stance to fight the dangers of drug abuse. Combined with the other actions our administration is taking, including nearly doubling the size of the State Police’s narcotics enforcement arm and training SUNY and CUNY personnel to administer anti-overdose medication, this bill furthers the thorough and comprehensive approach we need to crack down on this growing epidemic. I commend the legislative leaders and their colleagues who helped forge this agreement, and I urge the full legislature to pass it and join us on a measure that truly will save lives.”

The package of bills includes the following provisions:

Improved Measures to Support Addiction Treatment: The legislation includes the following provisions to help support treatment of individuals with substance addiction problems:

  • · Enables individuals requiring treatment to have access to an expedited appeals process and ensures that they are not denied care while the appeals process is underway.
    · Improves access to care by requiring insurers to use recognized, evidence-based and peer-reviewed clinical review criteria, approved by the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), when making decisions regarding the medical necessity of treatment. This will require insurers to consistently cover the appropriate level of treatment for patients suffering from substance use disorders.
    · Ensures medical necessity decisions are made by medical professionals who specialize in behavioral health and substance use.
    · Creates a new demonstration program aimed at designing a new model of care that would divert patients who do not need in-hospital detoxification, but still need treatment, to appropriate services and facilities. This program would provide alternative short term community based treatment, avoiding unnecessary emergency room costs as well as enabling OASAS to study the effectiveness of the new approaches to address the needs of individuals suffering with substance addiction.
    · Directs OASAS to create a wraparound services demonstration program to provide services to adolescents and adults for up to nine months after the successful completion of a treatment program. These services would be in the form of case management services that address education, legal, financial, social, childcare, and other supports. These services will help former patients improve their quality of life and greatly reduce the likelihood of relapse.
    · Provides that young people alleged to be suffering from a substance use disorder – which could make the youth a danger to himself or herself or others – can be assessed by an OASAS certified provider as part of Person In Need of Supervision (PINS) diversion services.

New Penalties to Help Crack Down on Illegal Drug Distribution: The legislation includes the following provisions to enable the State and law enforcement to better crack down on the distribution of heroin, opioids, and illegal prescription drugs:
  • · Creates a new crime in the penal code of “fraud and deceit related to controlled substances” to crack down on doctor shopping, criminalizing behavior by those individuals who obtain or attempt to obtain a controlled substance or a prescription by misrepresenting themselves as a doctor or pharmacist, or presenting a forged prescription.
    · Adds the “criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance or of a controlled substance by a practitioner or pharmacist” as a designated offense for purposes of obtaining eavesdropping warrants as well as adding the offense as a “criminal act” for the purposes of prosecuting enterprise corruption cases. These small but significant reforms will give law enforcement and prosecutors the ability to utilize eavesdropping warrants to further fully investigate crimes involving the distribution of controlled substances, as well as empower law enforcement to further prosecute organized activity related to prescription drug trafficking in New York State.
    · Grants the Department of Health (DOH)’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement expanded access to criminal histories to aid its investigations of rogue prescribers and dispensers.
    · Increases the penalties for the criminal sale of a controlled substance by a pharmacist or practitioner by making the crime a class C felony.

Informational Cards in Naloxone Anti-Overdose Kits to Help Save Lives: The legislation includes the following provision to ensure the proper use of naloxone – an overdose antidote - when administered:
  • · Requires that every naloxone anti-overdose kit include informational cards with the important information on how to recognize symptoms of an overdose; what steps to take, including calling first responders; and how to access services through OASAS.
Expanded Public Education Campaigns to Prevent Opioid and Heroin Use: The legislation includes the following provisions to expand public awareness campaigns to help educate New Yorkers – particularly students and young people – about the dangers of opioid and heroin use:
  • · Directs OASAS to undertake a public awareness and educational campaign utilizing public forums, media (social and mass) and advertising to educate youth, parents, healthcare professionals and others about the risks associated with heroin and opioids, how to recognize signs of addiction and the resources available to deal with these issues.
    · Directs the State Education Commissioner to update the drug abuse curriculum every three years so that students have the most current and up-to-date information on coping with drug abuse and other substance abuse problems.

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