Assembly and Senate Pass Braunstein-Harckham Bill to Provide Opioid Overdose Drugs, Education to At-Risk Patients

Albany, NY The New York State Assembly and Senate have passed critical legislation that would ensure that at-risk patients discharged from treatment facilities are provided with opioid overdose educational materials and two doses of an opioid antagonist. Previously incarcerated individuals identified with a substance-use disorder would also be provided these materials upon release under the bill. This legislation was sponsored by Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) (A.348-A) and Senator Pete Harckham (S.2976-A) and passed both Houses with overwhelming bipartisan support.

According to data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, setting a new record in the nation’s overdose epidemic. Opioid antagonists, such as naloxone, are drugs that reverse the effects of opioids and are effective in preventing overdose deaths.In 2018, the United States Surgeon General issued the first national advisory in over a decade, urging more Americans to carry naloxone. The availability of an opioid antagonist is crucial in ensuring that overdose deaths do not occur. 

“At the national and local level, we have seen a significant increase in opioid overdoses, and we must use every tool at our disposal to address this growing crisis,” said Assemblyman Edward Braunstein. “Increasing education about opioid overdose, as well as access to the antidote naloxone, would help to reverse the addiction crisis and save lives in New York.”

“Residents with Substance Use Disorder need all of the resources possibly available to them in order to avoid an overdose—it’s that simple,” said State Senator Pete Harckham, Chair of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.“This legislation ensures that an opioid antagonist, such as naloxone, and educational materials are given to individuals leaving treatment programs, which will certainly save lives statewide.”

"There has never been a more important time for measures like this," said Allegra Schorr, President of the Coalition of Medication-Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates of New York State (COMPA)."This bill ensures that individuals at high risk of overdose, including those who are being discharged from an inpatient facility or released from incarceration, will receive two doses of naloxone and educational materials. These are essential, common-sense, and overdue steps in stopping the surge in opioid overdoses and deaths.This legislation will help save lives.” 

A North Carolina study published in 2018 by the American Journal of Public Health indicated that "in the first two weeks after being released from prison, former inmates were 40 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than someone in the general population … Even an entire year after release, overdose death rates remained 10-18 times higher among formerly incarcerated individuals."

The bill would take effect 180 days after becoming law.