New York Bill Set to Tackle Heroin and Prescription Drug Epidemic
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other legislative leaders agreed today to a deal on a bill aimed at combating New York’s heroin and prescription drug epidemic. The legislature will put it to a vote on Thursday before ending its yearly session.
The bill includes a number of measures – in total, over a dozen changes to NY state law. These include:
- Disallowing insurers from requiring a pre-authorization to treat opioid or heroin addiction, including inpatient rehabilitation and medication to mitigate withdrawal symptoms.
- Enabling families to seek a 3-day involuntary assessment of addicts (now currently 2 days).
- Requiring hospitals to provide follow-up treatment options after discharge.
- Restricting physicians to 7-day prescriptions of opioids for acute pain, way down from the current 30 days.
- Requiring insurers to cover naloxone, the medication most often used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. insurers would be required to cover the cost of the medication for both addicts and their family members.
- Requiring physicians and drug prescribersto complete an information opioid 3-hour training course every 3 years.
“This multi-faceted legislative package will increase access to treatment, expand prevention strategies, and save lives by helping ensure New Yorkers struggling with addiction have access to the services and resources they need to get well.”
Lawmakers who were part of a task force created by Cuomo introduced the bill yesterday. Sponsors included Sen. Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown, Westchester County) and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan). The task force and subsequent legislation were created to battle with the ever-increasing heroin and prescription drug epidemic.
“Combating this epidemic has been and remains a top priority of mine and this legislative package will help us save the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers by expanding access to treatment, removing insurance barriers and enhancing community prevention statewide.”
New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report last week which revealed that New York has outpaced the U.S. average in both opioid use and overdose deaths. According to the report, heroin-related deaths hit an all-time high of 825 in New York in 2014, which was a 24% increase from 2013.
In addition to the legislation, on April 1 the state budget approved $189 million to combat heroin and opioid addiction.
Most of these measures likely represent good news for the people of New York. However, I’m a bit concerned about this assessment or treatment that is described as “involuntary”. Does the patient not have any rights? Moreover, what is deemed to be “incapacitated”?
“Under existing New York State Mental Health Law, individuals incapacitated due to drugs and/or alcohol abuse can be transported to a hospital, where they can be held for up to 48 hours to receive emergency treatment services.Testimony from family members and treatment providers suggest that 48 hours is insufficient time to stabilize and engage an individual whose cognitive ability has been significantly impaired by active addiction, especially someone who has been revived from an overdose.”
On the surface it sounds reasonable, but anytime someone is forced into treatment, I have to question whether or not this is a violation of human rights.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology