Assemblyman Perry Passes Legislative Package to Combat New York’s Heroin Epidemic

Assemblyman Perry (D-Kings County – 58th AD) announced the Assembly has passed legislation to address the growing heroin and opioid epidemic in New York State. The governor is expected to sign the measures into law.

“Heroin is devastating our communities. Almost every day we hear another tragic report of a life lost to heroin or a family torn apart by drug abuse. Heroin abuse has become an epidemic, and it’s time to take action,” Assemblyman Perry said. “The measures we passed today will save lives and help ensure that more people can get the help and support they need to overcome addiction.”

The legislation:

  • increases awareness and prevention efforts;
  • ensures that the lifesaving antidote naloxone is used safely and effectively;
  • increases access to treatment programs; and
  • strengthens state law to prevent the distribution of illegal drugs.

“Heroin has become a huge problem in New York State, and statistics show that it’s only getting worse, especially among young people,” Assemblyman Perry said. “In fact, one-third of all heroin seizures nationwide occurred in New York State.1 From increasing prevention and awareness to ensuring treatment is available, each of these measures will work in concert to help stop the growing abuse of heroin and prescription drugs.”

Increasing awareness and prevention

Earlier this year, the opioid antidote naloxone was approved for widespread use and has since saved numerous lives by reversing the effects of heroin overdose. To make sure that this lifesaving drug is administered properly, the distribution of educational materials will now be required with every dose of naloxone distributed through an opioid overdose prevention program. The pamphlets accompanying the drug will include information on recognizing, treating and following up on an opioid overdose, along with contact information for local treatment services (A.10156).

Similar information will also be distributed to parents, youth, health care professionals and the general public through a new Heroin and Opioid Addiction Awareness and Education Program to help reduce stigma. This program will also raise awareness of the Good Samaritan Law, ensuring that individuals know they cannot be held liable if they report a heroin overdose, greatly increasing the chances that first responders may be able to save lives (A.10161).

Ensuring treatment is available

The legislation will also create the Opioid Addiction Treatment and Hospital Diversion Demonstration Program. Under the measure, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) will be authorized to consult with the Department of Health (DOH) to establish demonstration treatment programs statewide. This program will utilize existing facilities licensed or certified by OASAS to set a new standard of treatment for opioid abusers and provide for a referral for the continued care of patients following their successful completion of the detox program (A.10159).

“Our health care system is simply not equipped to handle the rampant drug abuse we’re currently facing,” Assemblyman Perry said. “Creating a cooperative system of medical professionals and addiction experts is vital to putting as many people as possible back on the road to a lasting recovery.”

The Assembly also passed legislation to create a demonstration program that will help prevent relapse and promote long-term recovery by providing comprehensive wraparound services to patients during treatment and for up to nine months after successful completion of a treatment program. These services will include legal, financial and peer to peer supports to help maintain a drug-free lifestyle (A.10160). Additional legislation will increase access to treatment by requiring health care insurers to utilize providers who specialize in substance abuse disorder services and provide coverage for services based on specific criteria to be issued by OASAS. The bill also requires that coverage be provided during an appeals process, helping to relieve the financial burden often faced by those seeking treatment (A.10164).

Reducing drug use among teens

Opioid and heroin abuse among teens and young adults has skyrocketed in recent years, making it vital that proper identification of substance abuse take place so that proper treatment may be received. One opportunity for assessment exists during diversion services required prior to the filing of a Person in Need of Supervision (PINS) petition. Unfortunately, parents, attorneys and county agencies may fail to take advantage of this opportunity due to lack of awareness. To help more teens get the help and treatment they need, legislation will clarify that youth suspected of substance use disorder may be referred to assessment services as part of the PINS diversion services (A.10162).

In addition, the legislation directs the New York State Education Department (SED) to make recommendations to update health education curriculum on substance abuse, including the dangers of abusing heroin and other opioids (A.10163).

Cracking down on criminal offenders

Legislation was also passed to discourage the illegal distribution of controlled substances. One bill cracks down on prescription fraud as it pertains to opioids by making it a clearly defined crime (A.10155).

Additionally, the illegal sale of a controlled substance by a practitioner or pharmacist, regardless of its prescription status, will now be a class C felony (A.10154). To help prosecute more of these crimes, legislation was also passed to give law enforcement agencies the ability to obtain an eavesdropping warrant in the case of sale of a controlled substance (A.10157).

“It’s essential that we keep these dangerous substances out of the wrong hands,” Assemblyman Perry said. “This legislation aims to discourage anyone with legal access to opioids from illegally dispensing those drugs.”

The legislation will also allow the Department of Health’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE) to access criminal history information on individuals who are subject to an open and ongoing investigation regarding the illegal use of controlled substances (A.10158).

The Assembly is committed to reducing the number of tragedies related to heroin and opioid abuse. A series of roundtables was recently held to study the state of addiction and abuse in New York and to develop legislation to address the scourge of heroin and opioid abuse the state is facing.

“The legislation we passed will help save lives and curb the epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse,” said Assemblyman Perry. “I thank the Senate and the governor for working together in a bipartisan manner to do what is right for our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”