NY lawmakers unveil 25 bills to curb heroin use
ALBANY New York schools could be equipped with an opioid antidote and patients taking certain pain medications would be limited to a 10-day supply under new legislation proposed Wednesday to fight the rise of heroin and bolster treatment of addicts.
The Senate's Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction released 25 bills and a report targeting opioid abuse and overdoses, increasing addiction treatment and aiding law enforcement.
"A terrible opioid epidemic has gone statewide, from Buffalo to Montauk, New York City, rural communities, everywhere throughout the state," said Sen. Phil Boyle, chairman of the task force.
Members of the majority coalition — made up of Republicans and a faction of five Democrats who control the Senate — introduced the measures after conducting 18 forums statewide.
Republican Sen. Kemp Hannon is sponsoring seven bills, including a proposal that would equip schools with naloxone, an effective antidote for opioid overdoses that can be inhaled or injected. The bill would cover whoever administers the drug under the "Good Samaritan" law, which protects people from potential arrest when they call for medical help from the scene of an overdose.
Experts say that heroin from Mexico has flooded New York City, making Long Island a hot spot for distribution and usage.
Hannon is also seeking to institute a 10-day supply limit on certain controlled substances for acute pain.
While some bills take a proactive approach by creating prevention programs, most target the effects of heroin and opioid use and how to get treatment.
Sen. John Bonacic, an Orange County Republican, introduced legislation that would create an A-1 felony for the illegal transportation or sale of an opioid that leads to a death. Deaths from heroin overdoses in New York more than doubled from 215 in 2008 to 478 in 2012, according to the state health department. Experts believe the number of deaths attributed to opioid and heroin use will rise.
The coalition says they expect to see the passage of the legislation in the Senate within the coming weeks, but if passed it still has to be approved by the Democratic-led Assembly.
"If for some reason that's not done in the Assembly, I would call on the governor to call a special session of the state Legislature to deal with this heroin and opioid situation," Boyle said.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to sign a bill approved by the Legislature earlier this month that would allow health care professionals to write a general prescription for naloxone to pharmacies.
After the press conference on Wednesday, Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, whose conference introduced similar bills last month, released a statement saying the minority conference is willing to work with Republicans to pass legislation.