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Governor Cuomo Announces Continued Efforts to Raise Awareness of the Dangers of Illegal Fentanyl, Other Opioids, and Synthetic Cannabinoids

School Districts Reminded of Free Information and Resources Available to Educate Students in Letter Sent Today.

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Photo by: Vnukko

Albany, NY - Sept. 20, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced continued efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of opioids - including fentanyl, which is often hidden in other drugs - and synthetic cannabinoids. As part of these efforts, a joint letter from the Commissioners of the State Education Department, Department of Health, and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services is being sent to school districts detailing the risks, including death, associated with these drugs and reminding them of the resources offered by the state to educate students and communities. The full text of the letter is available here.
"As we fight to combat the opioid epidemic, it is critical that we educate New York's students on the very real dangers of fentanyl and synthetic cannabinoids," Governor Cuomo said. "We will continue to bolster our efforts to keep this poison out of the hands of our children, and I encourage schools to join us in this fight by using the free resources available to them to keep students healthy and safe."
"In New York we're aggressively working to combat the opioid epidemic, and it is vital that students are made aware of the dangers of these drugs, including fentanyl," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Co-Chair of the Heroin and Opioid Abuse Task Force. "We're providing school districts with the information they need to know the risks and resources available to prevent and help treat drug abuse. We want to ensure our youth make informed decisions and lead healthy and safe lives."
As use of these drugs among young people in New York continues to rise, the Governor is urging school districts to take action to address the ongoing crisis. Injection drug use among high school students doubled from 2005 to 2015 and in 2017, more than 6 percent of high schoolers reported having used synthetic cannabinoids.
FDA-approved fentanyl can be administered appropriately as an anesthetic during medical procedures and under close medical supervision. However, new forms of illicit fentanyl are being sold illegally or are being mixed with heroin and other drugs, which increases their potency and the risks of overdose or death. Synthetic cannabinoids are illegal and are marketed specifically to young people under a variety of eye-catching names and packaging. Synthetic cannabinoids consist of plant materials sprayed with unknown chemicals and despite sometimes being referred to as "synthetic marijuana," do not contain marijuana.  
The letter to school districts also contains information about the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, and encourages schools to have naloxone on hand to administer to students in cases where opioid overdoses are suspected. Guidance for school districts on registering as an Opioid Overdose Prevention Program and other ways of increasing access to naloxone are available here.
A key message in the letter is that school districts should use the New York State Addiction and Substance Use Disorder Educational Resource, which is available to districts on a flash drive at no cost. Districts looking to order one of these flash drives can e-mail OGS.SM.GDC@OGS.NY.GOV. The entire content included on the flash drive can also be accessed online free of charge here.
New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "It is important that we continue to educate young people about these illegal drugs, and the problems they cause. School workers, including teachers, coaches, and other trusted mentors serve a vital role in helping to reach students, and we will continue to offer them the resources and information they need to address substance use and addiction with young people."
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker said, "Adolescents should be encouraged to talk about their anxieties and the very real feelings they experience, instead of self-medicating with dangerous drugs to suppress them. If we start young people on a path to emotional wellness, the outcomes can include positive decision-making skills that will benefit them throughout their lives."
State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said, "No community is immune to the effects of the unprecedented scourge that is today's opioid crisis.  The role that teachers and school staff play in a student's life cannot be underestimated and by equipping them with information on these deadly drugs we are putting them in a position to potentially save a life.  If we are able to educate our youth today on the dangers of opioids and synthetic drugs, we are giving them the tools to make good decisions down the road."
Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has instituted an aggressive, multi-pronged approach to addressing the opioid epidemic, and created a nation-leading continuum of addiction care with full prevention, treatment, and recovery services. To combat this epidemic, the Governor has worked to expand access to traditional services, including crisis services, inpatient, outpatient, and residential treatment programs, as well as medication assisted treatment, and mobile treatment and transportation services.
In 2016, Governor Cuomo's Heroin Task Force recommended new, non-traditional services, including recovery centers, youth clubhouses, expanded peer services, and 24/7 open access centers, which provide immediate assessments and referrals to care. These services have since been established in numerous communities around the state, and have helped people in need access care closer to where they live.
The Governor has advanced legislative and regulatory reform to enable to people to get treatment faster by eliminating many insurance restrictions, as well as legislation to reduce certain opioid prescriptions from 30 days to seven days, and legislation to increase training and education for prescribers. Governor Cuomo has also taken action to combat patient brokering and fraudulent addiction treatment services.
The Governor has also worked to increase training and availability of naloxone, resulting in more than 300,000 individuals in New York State being trained and equipped with the opioid overdose reversal medication. Through Governor Cuomo's actions, pharmacies around New York State are now able to provide naloxone without a prescription.
New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).  
Available addiction treatment including crisis/detox, inpatient, community residence, or outpatient care can be found using the NYS OASAS Treatment Availability Dashboard at or through the NYS OASAS website
Visit to learn more about the warning signs of addiction, review information on how to get help, and access resources on how to facilitate conversations with loved ones and communities about addiction. For tools to use in talking to a young person about preventing alcohol or drug use, visit the State's Talk2Prevent website