Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation that “continues aggressive efforts to address the opioid and overdose epidemic.” Matthew’s Law, or S.2099C/A.5200B, expands the public’s access to fentanyl testing supplies, a resource that protects public health by decreasing the chances of an accidental drug overdose.
“Families across our state have felt the immense tragedy of the opioid and overdose epidemic – it is a pain no one should ever have to endure,” Hochul said. “For too long, pharmacies and other local health care providers have struggled to provide the resources proven to prevent overdose deaths. With our historic investments in testing expansion, along with this legislation, we are working to ensure that every New Yorker has access to life-saving testing kits.”
Hochul’s team said, “Fentanyl testing strips were difficult to access across large parts of New York state. Matthew’s Law expands on the state’s ongoing efforts to provide access to test strips.”
Both the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) fund initiatives for providers to obtain and distribute fentanyl and xylazine test strips, as well as naloxone.
Earlier this year, OASAS launched a new ordering system for individuals and providers, which has resulted in the order of 2 million fentanyl test strips, 1.4 million xylazine test strips, and 70,000 naloxone kits. An additional 873,000 fentanyl test strips, 340,000 xylazine test strips and 387,492 naloxone units have been distributed through the state Department of Health-funded community-based programs from January to September 2023.
Matthew’s Law furthers this effort by allowing local pharmacies and health care providers to provide this life-saving resource to all New Yorkers. The law is named in memory of Matthew Horan, who died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in November 2020.
OASAS Commissioner Dr. Chinazo Cunningham said, “We are in the midst of the worst overdose crisis in history, and expanding the availability and use of resources like test strips is vital to the ongoing efforts to prevent overdose deaths in New York state. These materials are lifesaving, and we need to continue to take steps to make sure that we are getting them in the hands of people that need them so that they can reduce their risk of overdose.”
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “The overdose epidemic has had a devastating impact on far too many New Yorkers and their loved ones, but I am encouraged to see that drug testing supplies will now be more accessible to the public, and along with other available tools like naloxone, could save thousands of lives. I am grateful to Matthew Horan’s family for advocating for this law and for Gov. Hochul’s enduring commitment to eliminating the senseless death and tragedy that comes with accidental overdose.”
In May, the state Department of Health's Office of Drug User Health piloted the implementation for four drug-checking programs operated by state-funded Drug User Health Hubs. This care initiative is providing information to individuals on the content of their drugs. The results are offered along with counseling and guidance on how to use the drugs more safely.
Hochul’s team noted, “In the first six months of the program, 98% of samples purported to be heroin contained fentanyl and 53% contained xylazine. The testing program will detect new drugs as they enter the illicit market and warns people of unexpected substances in their drugs.”
In partnership with OASAS, New York state offers ongoing virtual naloxone trainings, which teach people how to recognize signs of an overdose and use naloxone to reverse it. More information is available here.