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Recommendations of the NYS Senate Heroin Task Force Forwarded to the Assembly

5_26_16On Tuesday, May 17th, 2016, NYS Senate Majority Leader Rob G. Ortt and the Senate Heroin Task Force released their report, encompassing recommendations and legislation designed to deal with the Heroin Epidemic in New York State. The report is the result of a year long inquiry led by Committee Co-Chairs Senators Rob Ortt (R,C,I – North Tonawanda), George A. Amedore, Jr. (R,C,I – Rotterdam) and Senator Terrence Murphy (R,C,I – Yorktown) who traveled throughout the state to listen to the suggestions and stories of health care providers, law enforcement officers and residents, in an effort to develop a comprehensive approach to combatting heroin addiction.  

Through legislative action and budgetary support, the Majority Conference hopes to increase the public awareness of the addictive nature of heroin and prescription opioids and deter opioid prescription abuse. The Task Force has identified “a critical need for insurance coverage for treatment options: inpatient, outpatient and Medication Assisted Therapies to support patients through recovery.” Task Force members noted that: “safe environments, stable employment, and opportunities to participate in diversion programs that avoid incarceration,” are needed to support addicts through recovery.

Law Enforcement Officials require tools to disrupt the supply of Heroin and the diversion of opiate prescriptions throughout the state.

Senator George Amedore said, “As we travelled the state to gather input on how best to address the heroin crisis, we heard the same concerns in communities all over the state: current insurance coverage for addiction is not adequate; we need to increase prevention efforts; more treatment and recovery services need to be available in all parts of the state, and law enforcement needs resources to get high level dealers off the streets. This four pronged approach – prevention, treatment, recovery and enforcement – is the foundation for the report and recommendations we released today. These recommendations will help so many throughout the state who are struggling with addiction.”

Senator Terrence Murphy said, “This report is the result of a statewide collaborative effort to offer solutions needed to combat, and ultimately win, New York's ongoing war on heroin and opioid addiction. The stories we heard were real, the pain we felt significant, and the desire to bring about the necessary changes to ensure our fellow New Yorkers receive the help and care they desperately deserve brought us to the four corners of our great State. It is abundantly clear that more needs to be done to expand treatment options; more needs to be done to educate our kids, fellow parents and prescribers; more needs to be done to improve and increase recovery services; and more needs to be done to support law enforcement's efforts. If there was ever an issue for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to unite over this would be that very cause.” 

This year, the NYS Budget allocated $166 Million to for heroin and opioid crisis, treatment, outpatient, and residential services; $25 Million beyond what the Governor proposed, as a result of the efforts of the Task Force. The additional $25 Million is dedicated to “Family Support Navigator and Navigator training programs; On-Call Peer programs; Adolescent Clubhouses to provide safe and welcoming spaces for teens; Recovery Community and Outreach Centers; Recovery Coach peer mentoring programs; a “Combat Heroin” Public Service Campaign; Opioid Overdose Prevention program; Opioid Medication Treatment program; Transitional Housing Opportunities; Local Government Unit Block Grants; School Resource Officer Training programs; and a Wraparound Services Demonstration Program.”

The Senate Passed 22 Bills designed to combat Heroin and Opioid Addiction on May 17th and further legislation is on the their agenda for June.

Senator Kemp Hannon (R, Nassau) proposed three bills: S6091B limited the prescription of Schedule II and III Drugs to a 5-day initial supply. Senate Bill S4348A, mandates a continuing medical education for healthcare practitioners with prescription dispensing privileges, tied to license renewals. Senate Bill S6962A ensures“ patient access to abuse-deterrent opioids by prohibiting insurers from disadvantaging drugs approved by the FDA as abuse-deterrent.

Senators Murphy, Amedore, and Ortt sponsored S7315, requiring state Office of Alcoholism and Substance abuse Services (OASAS)” to create either a card or pamphlet to be included with every opioid prescription dispensed,” detailing “the risks of using such controlled substances; the physical, behavioral and advanced warning signs of addiction to such substances; the HOPELINE telephone contact number and text number (HOPENY) operated by OASAS; the procedures for safe disposal of drugs; and any other information the commissioner deems necessary. Additionally, the bill requires the same information be provided to patients administered opioids while in the hospital, and requires acknowledgment of receipt of the information in the patient’s discharge plan.”

Senate Bill S6915A, sponsored by Senator Amedore, establishes a Narcan Registry, directing the NY Dept. of State to expand tracking of opioid overdoes “by tracking opioid overdoses, generally, not just opioid deaths. The bill also directs DOS to examine data to see if opioid deaths in areas highly affected decrease once they receive state resources or services.

S5546A, sponsored by Senator Rich Funke (R-C-I, Fairport) directs the Commissioner of Education to recommend, to the Board of Regents, curricula Providing instruction of mental health, alcohol, drug and tobacco use in junior and senior high school.

Senator Fred Akshar (R-C-I, Colesville) sponsored S7365 requiring “patient counseling prior to issuing a prescription for a schedule II opioid.”

Legislation also mandated continuing education for credentialed alcohol and substance abuse counselors; extended the time a person with a substance abuse disorder can be held involuntarily from 48 to 72 hours; and “enables a court to order assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) for an individual with a substance use disorder who, due to his or her addiction, poses a threat to him or herself or others.”

Initiatives directed at supporting Recovery include “providing funding to substance use disorder and gambling programs operated by for-profit agencies” and the establishment of a Sober Living Task Force, “charged with establishing best practice guidelines for sober living residences.”

S6874, sponsored by Senator Murphy, expands treatment options for judicial diversion participants establishing that participation in a judicial diversion program cannot be conditioned on the specific type or brand of drug prescribed to a defendant during the course of medically prescribed drug treatments under the care of a health care professional.  

Legislation was also passed to facilitate the conviction of drug dealers who “possess 50 or more packages of a Schedule I opium derivative, or possess $300 or more worth of such drugs: Senate Bill S100.

S4177, sponsored by Senator Murphy, expands the crime of operating as a major trafficker by changing the number of persons needing to be involved and charged as part of a drug organization from four to three. The bill also lowers the minimum required proceeds from the sale of controlled substances during a 12-month period from $75,000 to $25,000.

S7200 sponsored by Senator Akshar creates Drug-Free Zones around drug or alcohol treatment centers and methadone clinics. S7012, sponsored by Senator Ortt, “establishes appropriate penalties as it relates to heroin sales.” S6317 “enhances judicial access to juvenile records for determining judicial diversion program eligibility.”

Senate Bill S6632A adds Fentanyl to the controlled substance schedule and Senate Bill S7397, establishes the Veterinary sedative Xylazine as a controlled substance.

Senate Bill S4163, sponsored by Senator George A. Amedore, Jr., establishes the crime of homicide by sale of an opiate controlled substance.“ “Drug dealers will be held accountable for lives lost as a result of their activities by creating an A-I felony for the unlawful transportation or sale of an opioid controlled substance that causes the death of another person.”

The above-noted bills have been forwarded to the Assembly.