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Hochul signs legislation package to combat opioid crisis


Fri, Oct 8th 2021 11:25 am

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed legislation (S.911/A.2354, S.1795/A.533, S.2523/A.868, S.6044/A.128, S.7228/A.5511) aimed toward reducing drug-related overdose deaths across New York – and encouraging those suffering from addiction to seek help in their recovery.

"Addiction can impact any family, suddenly and harshly – those who find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle are there through no fault of their own," Hochul said. "This is a personal battle for me, and I am proud to be able to combat the opioid crisis by signing these bills into law. There is no shame in seeking help for substance use, and I want to let all New Yorkers know that we are here for you. Treatment should always be accessible for those who need it."

Legislation S.911/A.2354 amends the criminal procedure law, the civil practice law and rules and the executive law to promote the use of opioid antagonists in preventing drug-related overdoses. This bill will decriminalize possession of opioid antagonists, which are drugs that block opioids by attaching to opioid receptors without activating them.

Hochul’s team said:

•Legislation S.1795/A.868 works to establish a program for the use of medication-assisted substance use disorder treatment for incarcerated individuals in state and local correctional facilities. Expanding medication assisted treatment (MAT) across state and local facilities will allow incarcerated individuals access to medications and therapies to provide them the opportunity to overcome substance use and lessen the likelihood that they may suffer drug-related overdoses upon their reentry into society.

•Legislation S.2523/A.868 decriminalizes the possession and sale of hypodermic needles and syringes. The act of decriminalizing drug-related paraphernalia contributes to public safety by permitting harm reduction approaches for those suffering from substance use disorder and by reducing the rate at which HIV and hepatitis are transmitted.

•Legislation S.6044/A.128 establishes an online directory for distributors of opioid antagonists making them more accessible to New Yorkers who may want to equip themselves with these life-saving medications. The directory is to be maintained by the Office of Addiction Services and Supports on their website.

•Legislation S.7228/A.5511 expands the number of eligible crimes committed by individuals with a substance use disorder that may be considered for diversion to a substance use treatment program and updates the term "substance abuse" to "substance use." This ensures judges can order an individual to treatment instead of incarceration, allowing them a greater chance for successful, long-term rehabilitation.

John Coppola, executive director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, said, "As New York state continues to experience an epidemic of overdose and addiction, the bills signed by Gov. Hochul … will help to move our response more toward a comprehensive public health approach and provide significant tools to ensure that all people have access to the care they need."

Ellen Morehouse, executive director of Student Assistance Services Corp., said, "I applaud Gov. Hochul's continued concern for those who are suffering from the opioid crisis and appreciate her leadership in taking steps to address New York's other pandemic."

Allegra Schorr, president of the Coalition of Medication-Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates, said, "COMPA commends Gov. Kathy Hochul and the NYS Legislature for enacting the opioid overdose bills, syringe decriminalization (S2523/A868) and MAT in prisons and jails (S1795/A533). Restricted access to medication-assisted treatment threatens the well-being of incarcerated people who face up to 12 times the increased risk of death from drug-related relapses upon release. This legislation ensures that incarcerated people will now have access to MAT, stopping the inhumane treatment that people with an opioid use disorder currently receive while incarcerated. It will reduce preventable fatal drug overdoses and the transmission of infectious diseases."

Tracie Gardner, Legal Action Center's vice president for policy advocacy, said, "Legal Action Center commends Gov. Hochul for making overdose prevention a key priority of her administration by signing legislation today recognizes the way to solve this continuing overdose epidemic is with a health first approach. In particular, decriminalizing syringe possession provides a critical pathway toward health and recovery for people who use drugs. Further, medications to treat substance use disorder have long been understood to be the standard of care, yet for too long people who are incarcerated have not had access to these medications, which has directly led to an astronomical risk of overdose when people with substance use disorder reenter the community. The legislation that Gov. Hochul is signing today will finally ensure access to these medications in prisons and jails throughout the state to aid people in their recovery and reverse this devastating epidemic."

Kayla Simpson, staff attorney with the Prisoners' Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society, said, "For too long, our clients incarcerated in state prisons have been denied access to medications that are widely recognized to be the standard of care for opioid use disorder. This barrier to treatment access has long forced our clients into needless suffering, destabilizing disruptions to their recovery, and serious risk of overdose and death. This legislation is a critical public health measure, allowing doctors to utilize treatment for incarcerated patients that will simply save lives.”

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