Albany, NY - June 22, 2016 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to combat the heroin and opioid crisis in New York State. The comprehensive package of bills was passed as part of the 2016 Legislative Session and marks a major step forward in the fight to increase access to treatment, expand community prevention strategies, and limit the over-prescription of opioids in New York.
The legislation includes several best practices and recommendations identified by the Governor’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force, and builds on the state’s aggressive efforts to break the cycle of heroin and opioid addiction and protect public health and safety. The Governor signed the sweeping legislation, touring the state and visiting the epicenters of the crisis, at events in Buffalo, Long Island and Staten Island.
“New York is leading the way forward in the fight against heroin and opioid addiction, and with this legislation, we are taking an affirmative stand for our families and communities who have suffered from this epidemic’s debilitating effects,” Governor Cuomo said. "I commend the Senate and the Assembly for their hard work and dedication to stopping this epidemic and creating a stronger and healthier New York."
Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said: “Everyday lives are being lost and families destroyed by the scourge of heroin and opioid abuse. The Senate formed the Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction more than two years ago to fight this epidemic, and our good work has resulted in numerous laws being passed, $189 million allocated in the 2016-17 budget, and several of the recommendations recently issued by Co-Chairs Senators Terrence Murphy, Robert Ortt, and George Amedore being incorporated into this new law. I thank the Governor, our colleagues in the Legislature, and especially the parents and families who have been personally touched by tragedy for working with us to prevent addiction, ensure treatment for those who need it, support people in their recovery, and bring hope to communities battling opioid abuse throughout New York.”
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano joining Governor Andrew Cuomo and State leaders in the signing of legislation to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic. Photo: Edward P. Mangano, via Facebook.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “Opioid addiction and related deaths have touched every community across New York State. The Assembly Majority pushed to ensure that this legislative session we took meaningful steps to put an end to this ongoing crisis. By making sure that every New Yorker has access to the supportive services and treatment they need, we can help prevent families from experiencing the devastating effects of losing a loved one to addiction.”
Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein said: "Heroin and opioid addictions ruin lives. As lawmakers, we came together to combat this scourge and get people in every corner of this state the help they need. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and for signing this life-saving and life-changing package into law."
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said: “After forty years of misguided policy, New York is finally turning the page and better addressing the heroin and opioid crisis. The Senate Democrats helped lead the fight to ensure state government took meaningful steps to combat this crisis and provide vital services to New Yorkers struggling with addiction. We are proud to stand with Governor Cuomo as New York serves as an example to the nation on how to better address the heroin and opioid epidemic.”
The new legislation includes several initiatives to address rampant heroin and opioid abuse across the state, including measures to increase access to life-saving over-dose reversal medication, regulations to limit opioid prescriptions from 30 to 7 days, and ongoing prevention education for all physicians and prescribers. Specifically, the legislation will:
REMOVE BURDENSOME BARRIERS TO ACCESS FOR INPATIENT TREATMENT AND MEDICATION
- Ends Prior Insurance Authorization to Allow for Immediate Access to Inpatient Treatment as Long as Such Treatment is Needed: People suffering from addiction who seek treatment need immediate access to services, but prior authorization requirements by insurance companies are often a roadblock to admission to inpatient programs. This legislation requires insurers to cover necessary inpatient services for the treatment of substance use disorders for as long as an individual needs them. In addition, the legislation establishes that utilization review by insurers can begin only after the first 14 days of treatment, ensuring that every patient receives at least two weeks of uninterrupted, covered care before the insurance company becomes involved.
- Ends Prior Insurance Authorization to Allow for Greater Access to Drug Treatment Medications: People seeking medication to manage withdrawal symptoms or maintain recovery must often request prior approval from their insurance company, which slows or stops the individual from getting needed medication. This legislation prohibits insurers from requiring prior approval for emergency supplies of these medications. Similar provisions will also apply to managed care providers treating Medicaid recipients who seek access to buprenorphine and injectable naltrexone.
- Requires All Insurance Companies Use Objective State-Approved Criteria to Determine the Level of Care for Individuals Suffering from Substance Abuse: Insurance companies often use inconsistent criteria to determine the covered level of care for persons suffering from substance use disorder, which often creates barriers preventing these individuals from receiving care. This legislation will require all insurers operating in New York State to use objective, state-approved criteria when making coverage determinations for all substance use disorder treatment in order to make sure individuals get the treatment they need.
- Mandate Insurance Coverage for Opioid Overdose-Reversal Medication: Naloxone is a medication that revives an individual from a heroin or opioid overdose and has saved thousands of New Yorkers’ lives. To expand access to this life-saving medication, the new legislation requires insurance companies to cover the costs of naloxone when prescribed to a person who is addicted to opioids and to his/her family member/s on the same insurance plan.
ENHANCE ADDICTION TREATMENT SERVICES
- Increase Evaluation for Individuals Incapacitated by Drugs from 48 to 72-Hours: Sometimes, individuals suffering from addiction are at risk for overdose and thus pose a threat to themselves. The legislation allows families to seek 72-hours of emergency treatment, an increase from the current 48-hours, for their loved one so that they can be stabilized and connected to longer-term addiction treatment options while also balancing individual rights of the incapacitated individuals.
- Require Hospitals to Provide Follow-Up Treatment Service Options to Individuals Upon Hospital Discharge: Hospitals play an important role in caring for individuals suffering from addiction who are often admitted to hospital emergency rooms after an overdose. This legislation requires hospital medical staff to provide discharge-planning services to connect patients who have or are at-risk for substance use disorder with nearby treatment options to provide continuous medical care.
- Allow More Trained Professionals to Administer Life-Saving Overdose-Reversal Medication: Overdose-reversal medication such as naloxone saves lives. However, the law does not currently allow certain licensed professionals to administer this medication to individuals overdosing from heroin and opioids. To ensure that more people are able to help reverse overdoses, the new legislation authorizes trained professionals to administer naloxone in emergency situations without risk to their professional license.
- Expand Wraparound Services to Support Long-Term Recovery: Individuals leaving treatment are at great risk for relapse. To provide services during this critical period, the legislation extends the wraparound program launched in 2014 to provide services to individuals completing treatment including education and employment resources; legal services; social services; transportation assistance, childcare services; and peer support groups.
STRENGTHEN COMMUNITY PREVENTION STRATEGIES
- Reduce Prescription Limits for Opioids from 30-days to Seven Days: There is a well-established link between the rise in opioid prescriptions and the current heroin crisis. To reduce unnecessary access to opioids, the legislation lowers the limit for opioid prescriptions for acute pain from 30-days to no more than a 7-day supply, with exceptions for chronic pain and other conditions.
- Require Ongoing Education on Addiction & Pain Management for All Physicians and Prescribers: Physicians and other opioid prescribers are important partners in preventing addiction linked to abuse of prescription opioids. To ensure that prescribers understand the risks presented by prescription opioids, the legislation mandates that these health care professionals complete three hours of education every three years on addiction, pain management, and palliative care.
- Mandate Pharmacists Provide Easy to Understand Information on Risks Associated with Drug Addiction and Abuse: Consumers may not understand the addiction and abuse risks posed by prescription opioids. To improve consumer awareness about these risks the legislation requires pharmacists to provide educational materials to consumers about the risk of addiction, including information about local treatment services.
- Require Data Collection on Overdoses and Prescriptions to Assist the State in Providing Additional Protections to Combat this Epidemic: Current and accurate data is critical to combat the heroin and opioid crisis yet gaps currently exist in statewide data on overdoses and usage of opioid reversal medication. To fill that gap the legislation requires the State Commissioner of Health to report county-level data on opioid overdoses and usage of overdose-reversal medication on a quarterly basis.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said: “From the beginning, Governor Cuomo was clear that this effort was not just about policy or procedure, but rather the human cost that was simply too devastating to continue. As someone who has assembled forums all over the state, I have looked into the eyes of the parents burdened with tremendous guilt because they lost their child and often didn’t know how to help. No more can that be the case in New York State. Today we make a commitment to end the heroin and opioid epidemic once and for all.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said: “Like other cities across the State and Country, Buffalo has witnessed first-hand the tragic toll that heroin and opioid drugs can have, and the legislation signed today by Governor Cuomo should help with both prevention and treatment. I thank Governor Cuomo, the Legislature and our local delegation for their support of these common sense steps for ending the crisis of heroin and opioid addiction in New York State.”
State Senator David Carlucci said: "Having been at the forefront of fighting this crisis, I am proud to have championed proposals to address one of our state’s most pressing concerns - the heroin epidemic. This legislative package will enhance services for those who need help most, and with my legislation, will put New York State on the map as the first state in the nation to require over-the-counter Naloxone by law. When it comes to the families that are affected by this devastating problem, working to provide solutions must be our top priority, and I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership."
State Senator Tim Kennedy said: “As the opioid crisis continues to grow, it is becoming ever rarer to find a Western New Yorker that has not been impacted,” said Senator Kennedy. “Day after day we are losing young lives to this scourge, and day after day we are told that nothing can be done, that these drugs are simply too addictive. As a state we must reject that thinking, and with this legislation we are. If we can save just one life, and prevent one more parent from having to bury their child, then these laws will have been worth it. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in bringing about this agreement, and I want to personally thank the many hardworking men and women who dedicate their time to facilitating treatment, for no chemically-dependent individual is past saving.”
State Senator Terrence Murphy said: “Too many lives have been cut short as result of this devastating public health crisis. By limiting opioid prescriptions, eliminating insurance barriers to treatment and expanding support for New Yorkers in recovery, this legislation builds on this state’s aggressive efforts to combat heroin addiction and reverse the trends of this deadly epidemic. I was proud to be a member of the Governor’s Task Force and I thank the Governor for his commitment to building a safer and healthier New York. This is a critical step in helping those in need get on the path to recovery and improving the lives of our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”
State Senator Diane J. Savino said: "I want to commend Governor Cuomo and my fellow legislative leaders for taking these important steps towards combating opioid abuse and the addiction crisis that's affecting so many people and their families. While there's still work to be done to combat this horrible epidemic thanks to this package of bills, we will finally begin to address the issues and concerns raised by those individuals who have been affected most with a more comprehensive approach."
Assemblyman Michael Cusick said: As our borough, city, and state continue to battle the heroin & opioid crisis, the legislation being signed today represents a significant step forward for the individuals and families affected by this epidemic. Eliminating insurance barriers to treatment, establishing discharge plans for individuals treated for an overdose, and limiting the length of opioid prescriptions, all recommendations borne out of Governor Cuomo's Heroin & Opioid Task Force, will aid us in turning the tide against this terrible scourge of use and abuse. I want to thank Governor Cuomo, the members of the Task Force, and the hundreds of Staten Islanders who submitted suggestions and attended the meeting of the Task Force at Mount Loretto in May for their dedication to ridding our communities of addiction.
Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer said: “One of the greatest threats to the safety and security of our communities is the growing heroin and opioid epidemic. This year’s opioid overdose legislative package supports a comprehensive approach to tackling the problem. The legislation I sponsored with Senator Carlucci (A9078-B/S6346-B) will increase the availability of naloxone – a life-saving opioid overdose treatment – in pharmacies throughout the state without a prescription. It is critical to ensure that friends and family members of overdose victims have access to and are properly trained in the administration of naloxone, as they are often the people in a position to save an overdose victim’s life. I commend Governor Cuomo and my legislative colleagues for taking such a comprehensive approach to this terrible epidemic.”
Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse said: "To address the growing public health crisis that is heroin and opioid addiction, this plan removes barriers to treatment, such as bureaucratic hurdles created by insurance companies, and requires that doctors receive training in prescribing controlled, highly addictive substances. We must continue to focus on dedicating resources to proven methods of harm reduction, expanding access to comprehensive and supportive treatment and recovery programs and investing heavily in targeted prevention education. We must also work to change attitudes surrounding addiction and to ensure that those seeking treatment become deliberative partners with us on a shared path toward their own health and wellbeing. I applaud the Governor for taking this important first step, and look forward to continuing our work together to tackle the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic.”
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said: “In February, I announced comprehensive legislation to combat New York’s heroin and opioid epidemic, by focusing on increasing doctor education. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership as he signs into law today a comprehensive plan which includes a provision to mandate ongoing doctor education in the areas of addiction, pain management, and palliative care. This important law will help to prevent opioid addiction, expand access to treatment, and most importantly, save lives. By improving doctor education, we are getting to the root of the problem, and preventing people from becoming life-long opioid addicts. This law is a huge step forward for New York State, and I thank everyone who has been pushing for bold action to address this public health crisis.”
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said: "Heroin and opioid abuse has created an epidemic requiring creative and alternative solutions. Thanks to the Governor’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force’s findings, there were numerous recommendations for my colleagues and I to review and vote on as a package. I applaud Governor Cuomo, the Task Force, my colleagues in government, and especially the professionals and family members that not only voiced their concerns but provided input to help families across the state struggling with this epidemic."
Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon said: “While heroin and opioid addiction have already taken a tragic toll on our borough, city and state, the legislation being signed today marks a significant step in getting individuals and their families the help they need to battle this epidemic head on and save lives. However, it is important to remember that this is just one step forward. And tomorrow we must not lose our resolve but rather keep the conversation going to address this public health and public safety crisis and work together to continue to eliminate this drug scourge from our communities. As a member of Governor Cuomo’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force, I am proud of the comprehensive and historic reforms established in this package of bills, particularly with regards to changes in the insurance industry. I would like to commend the Governor and legislative leaders for their diligence on combating the drug epidemic that is ravaging the lives of so many people every day.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said: “This comprehensive legislation marks a major step forward in the fight to combat heroin and opioid abuse and end this harrowing epidemic once and for all. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, the state continues to take bold action to increase access to treatment, eliminate unnecessary insurance barriers and ensure widespread distribution of naloxone. I applaud Governor Cuomo, Senator Flanagan and Speak Heastie for their commitment to our most vulnerable New Yorkers and for listening to the countless families, advocates and individuals across the state who have called for change. This is life-saving legislation will help break the cycle of addiction and ensure our loved-ones have access to the addiction treatment services they need and deserve.”
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano said: "This legislation is good news as it assists in the battle against drug abuse by providing broader access to treatment, supporting prevention education and increasing access to life saving overdose reversal drugs."
NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner, Arlene González-Sánchez: "As Commissioner of New York State's alcoholism and substance use disorder agency, I was honored to travel our great state with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul as a co-lead of the Heroin and Opioids Task Force. Together with Task Force members, we logged many miles across the state to hear firsthand from New Yorkers about their needs. After hearing recommendations from all across the state, Governor Cuomo, the Senate and the Assembly acted quickly to pass this history-making package of bills. This legislation will help to ensure that more lives are saved from the grips of addiction and that solid connections to addiction treatment are made. These bills will further strengthen our care system for New Yorkers battling addiction and support their families now and for years to come. I look forward to working together with our partners to make this legislative package come alive for all New Yorkers in the coming months."
Maria T. Vullo, Superintendent of Financial Services said: "This administration is paving the way to ending the nationwide opioid epidemic with the signing of this landmark legislation by eliminating insurer prior approval for inpatient care and state approved criteria to determine insurance coverage for inpatient treatment. I am proud to have been a part of Governor Cuomo's Opioid and Heroin Task Force as New York State moves to implement measures that will ultimately make essential services and lifesaving techniques readily available to those in need."
NYS Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said: "The bills being signed by Governor Cuomo today will help save lives and rescue many people from the agony of drug addiction. I am very proud to serve on the Governor’s Heroin Task Force and to be helping to protect the public health by fighting the opioid epidemic.”
ADDITIONAL INITIATIVES TO COMBAT ADDICTION
The FY 2017 Budget invests nearly $200 million through the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic -- an 82 percent increase in state spending since 2011. This investment includes $66 million for residential treatment beds, including counseling and support services for roughly 8,000 individuals; $38 million to fund medication-assisted treatment programs that serve approximately 12,000 clients in residential or outpatient settings; $25 million in funding for state-operated Addiction Treatment Centers; $24 million for outpatient services that provide group and individual counseling; and $8 million for crisis/detox programs to manage and treat withdrawal from heroin and opioids.
As part of the Governor’s ongoing efforts to address this public health crisis, this funding will allow the addition of 270 treatment beds and 2,335 opioid treatment program slots across the state to help New Yorkers suffering from substance use disorder and to expand vital treatment and recovery resources.
The funding will also provide additional family support navigators across New York to assist substance users and their families locate and access treatment options and cope with addiction. The agreement will also expand the on-call peer program which partners individuals in recovery with people in hospitals suffering from substance use disorder to help connect these individuals to treatment and other resources upon discharge. The state is also increasing the number of Recovery Community and Outreach Centers and Adolescent Club Houses statewide to provide safe spaces for teens in recovery that deliver health and wellness services for teens and young adults.
The Governor’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force – comprised of a diverse coalition of experts in healthcare, drug policy, advocacy, education, and parents and New Yorkers in recovery – held executive meetings and eight listening sessions across the state – hearing directly from health care providers, family support groups, educators, law enforcement officials, and community members and gathering input that has influenced the initiatives announced today. The task force is co-chaired by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez. The final report and recommendations can be found here. For more information, please visit: here.
Since 2014, Governor Cuomo has implemented a series of aggressive reforms to combat heroin and opioid addiction, including signing historic Combat Heroin Legislation that year; expanding insurance coverage for substance use disorder treatment; increasing access and enhancing treatment capacity across the state, including a major expansion of opioid treatment and recovery services; implementing the comprehensive I-STOP law to curb prescription drug abuse; and launching a public awareness and prevention campaign to inform New Yorkers about the dangers of heroin use and opioid misuse.
"New York is leading the way forward in the fight against heroin and opioid addiction, and with this legislation, we are taking an affirmative stand for our families and communities who have suffered from this epidemic’s debilitating effects," said Governor Cuomo.
Executive Director of SI partnership for Community Wellness, Adrienne Abbate said: "It's critical that our communities have the information and resources to prevent substance use and connect those in need of treatment with services. With this legislation and its multi-pronged approach, we will be better equipped to combat the opioid scourge plaguing our communities. I thank the Governor, the Legislature, the staff at OASAS, and the advocates from across NYS for their hard work on making this groundbreaking legislation a reality."
CEO of Horizon Health Services, Anne Constantino said: "Heroin and opioid abuse has been a scourge on communities in every corner of the state. As someone who has dealt with addiction first hand, I know all too well this rising public health crisis has cut too many promising lives short. Today we are taking a stand against the epidemic. I thank the Governor for his leadership on this issue, and commend the legislature for rising to the occasion and taking decisive action to bring hope to families and communities suffering from the devastation of opioid abuse across the state."
Executive Director, Human Understanding & Growth Services, Kym Laube said: “We have listened to families across the state who have struggled to cope with the loss and pain associated with addiction. Today, with this bold legislation, we are saying to these families: we hear you, and we are with you. New Yorkers struggling with addiction have found a strong partner in Governor Cuomo, who has been spearheading this call to action from the onset. These new policies will ensure that those suffering from addiction, and their loved ones, receive the assistance they need and deserve.”
CEO of Arms Acres, Patrice Wallace-Moore said: “Heroin and opioid abuse affects thousands of New Yorkers across this state and nation. This legislation provides those struggling to overcome the stronghold of addiction with the support they need to receive critical treatment and get their lives back on track. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the state is enacting landmark policies that will carry forth hope and improve the lives of families and entire communities that have been fraught with adversity and inaction. Today, with this legislation, New York State is leading the way for a better tomorrow."
President and CEO of Family and Children’s Association, Jeffrey Reynolds said: "Today is truly a monumental day for New York and especially for those who are struggling with substance use disorders. This package of bills will dramatically increase access to treatment services and help thousands find a path to recovery. I'm honored to serve on the Task Force and I thank both the Governor and the legislature for taking decisive action to bring hope to families and communities that have been ravaged by heroin and other drugs. When we look back, I'm hopeful that this will be the day when we finally turned the corner in fighting this epidemic."
Executive Director of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard, Susan Salomone said: “As a parent who has lost their loved-one to opioid addiction, I have experienced the devastating effects addiction can have on our families and communities first-hand. Now, with this landmark legislation, we are sending a message across this state that those struggling with addiction are not alone. We are ensuring that our families have access to the treatment and support services they need, and putting more New Yorkers on a path to long-term recovery. I am proud to be a member of the Governor’s task force to combat heroin and opioid abuse in New York, and I commend Governor Cuomo as well as the State Legislature for enacting these sweeping reforms.”
Director of Services, Addiction Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Patrick Seche said: "As an addiction treatment specialist, I see patients in need every day. I am so pleased that with this legislation, those patients will have better access to services and improved supports. Thank you to Governor Cuomo, the New York State Senate and Assembly, the Task Force, which I was very proud to be a part of, and everyone involved in passing this truly game-changing legislative package that will help New Yorkers who are battling addiction."
New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state’s HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369). New Yorkers can find an OASAS-certified substance use disorder treatment provider by using the OASAS Treatment Availability Dashboard. For help with accessing care and insurance coverage, visit the Access Treatment page on the OASAS website. To find a naloxone overdose reversal medication training near you, visit the OASAS opioid overdose prevention trainings page. Visit here for more information on addressing heroin and prescription opioid abuse, including a Kitchen Table Tool Kit to help start the conversation about the warning signs of addiction and where to get help. For additional tools to use in talking to a young person about preventing underage drinking or drug use, visit the State’s Talk2Prevent website.