Gov. Cuomo Signs Legislation To Combat Heroin, Opioid Crisis

By Dorri Olds 06/27/16

The New York governor signed a package of bills that focus on drug treatment, overprescribing, and Narcan availability. 

Gov. Cuomo Signs Legislation To Combat Heroin, Opioid Crisis
Photo New York/You/Tube

New landmark legislation was signed into law on Wednesday, June 22, by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as part of an ongoing effort to fight the opiate crisis in New York.

Under the new legislation, doctors will be limited to prescribing a seven-day supply of opiates for the majority of patients, rather than the previously allowed 30-day supply. "If you take opioids for 30 days there is a good chance that you are starting to have a problem when you quit," the governor said at a press conference on Wednesday, adding that leftovers from a month's worth of pills are often sold off, contributing to the growing rate of non-medical prescription opioid use.

Opiate prescribing education is now a requirement for prescribers, pharmacists are now required to educate customers about addiction risk, and insurers are now required to cover inpatient substance use disorder treatment for as long as is necessary—to name a few of the changes that are now state law under the new legislation. 

“Ten years ago, this was not a problem," said Cuomo. "It’s not just this state, it is happening all across the country. You want to get a scope of the severity of this problem, we now lose more people to heroin or opioid overdoses as we did to AIDS at its peak, believe it or not."

The legislation will expand insurance coverage for naloxone, the lifesaving overdose antidote, and will make it easier for medical professionals to administer the drug to people who overdose. Other changes include increasing the amount of time a person can be held for emergency overdose treatment from 48 to 72 hours, adding 270 more treatment beds and 2,335 more outpatient treatment spaces across New York to accommodate the growing number of people in need of substance use disorder treatment. 

“You have to strike when the iron is hot, and you have to get that person into treatment right then and there," said Cuomo. "You have a window of opportunity when the person says, ‘I get it, I need help.’ And you want to seize that window because it could be gone the next day. Too many times people call for treatment and the treatment center says, 'We have no beds now. Call back in 30 days.' Call back in 30 days? The person could be dead in 30 days.” 

The governor says these changes will save lives, taking pride in the fact that New York is pioneering this legislation for the rest of the country. “The White House called and said, this is the best plan in the country and they want to use it as a model for other states,” he stated at the press conference.

Check out Gov. Cuomo's announcement below:

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Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.