State Leaders Craft Legislative Plan to ‘Break the Cycle’ of Heroin, Opioid Addiction

State Leaders Craft Legislative Plan to ‘Break the Cycle’ of Heroin, Opioid Addiction

Photo Courtesy of Gov. Cuomo’s Office

By Michael V. Cusenza

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the state Legislature on Tuesday announced a final agreement on new laws to combat the epidemic of heroin and prescription opioid abuse in the Empire State.

The package of three bills includes initiatives to address New York’s current drug crisis, including provisions to limit the over-prescription of opioids and remove barriers to access for inpatient treatment and medication. The legislation also aims to address issues and concerns raised by individuals in recovery, families, and treatment providers across the state, according to the administration.

“New York and the nation as a whole is grappling with how to combat heroin and opioid addiction and, with this comprehensive plan, we are continuing to take decisive action to end this epidemic and protect our families and communities,” Cuomo said. “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. I commend Majority Leader Flanagan, Speaker Heastie and Senator Klein for their deep dedication to addressing this issue, and I look forward to our continued work to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers.”

Increase Access to Treatment

The new legislation requires insurers to cover necessary inpatient services for the treatment of substance use disorders for as long as an individual needs them. In addition, it establishes that utilization review by insurers can begin only after the first 14 days of treatment, ensuring that every patient receives at least two weeks of uninterrupted, covered care before the insurance company becomes involved.

The legislation also prohibits insurers from requiring prior approval for emergency supplies of drug-treatment medications. Similar provisions will also apply to managed-care providers treating individuals on Medicaid who seek access to buprenorphine and injectable naltrexone.

The new law will require all insurers operating in New York to use objective, state-approved criteria when making coverage determinations for all substance use disorder treatment in order to make sure individuals get the treatment they need.

And in order to expand access to life-saving medication like naloxone, the new legislation requires insurance companies to cover the costs of the meds when prescribed to a person who is addicted to opioids and to his/her family member/s on the same insurance plan.

“The Assembly Majority believes that supporting New Yorkers struggling with substance use is critically important,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “In some cases, families have fought for years to free their loved ones from the grips of addiction. The recent rise in opioid-related deaths has raised the alarm that no home or community is immune to tragedy. If we don’t act now, more families will have to carry the devastating burden of losing a loved one to drug addiction. For the sake of our children and families, it is imperative that we strengthen access to support and treatment services in every community and target resources to combat this epidemic in all its forms.”


There is a well-established link between the rise in opioid prescriptions and the current heroin crisis. To reduce unnecessary access to opioids, the new legislation lowers the limit for opioid prescriptions for acute pain from 30-days to no more than a seven-day supply, with exceptions for chronic pain and other conditions.

To ensure that prescribers understand the risks presented by prescription opioids, the new law mandates that these health care professionals complete three hours of education every three years on addiction, pain management, and palliative care.

To improve consumer awareness about the risks associated with drug addiction and abuse, the legislation requires pharmacists to provide educational materials to consumers about the risk of addiction, including information about local treatment services.

To fill the gap in statewide data on overdoses and usage of opioid reversal medication, the legislation requires the State Commissioner of Health to report county-level data on opioid overdoses and usage of overdose-reversal medication on a quarterly basis.

Tuesday’s agreement also allocates funding to add 270 treatment beds and 2,335 opioid treatment program slots across the state to help New Yorkers suffering from substance use disorder and to expand treatment and recovery resources.
The agreement funds additional family support navigators across New York to assist substance users and their families locate and access treatment options and cope with addiction. The agreement pledges to also expand the on-call peer program which partners individuals in recovery with people in hospitals suffering from substance use disorder to help connect these individuals to treatment and other resources upon discharge. Additionally, the state is increasing the number of Recovery Community and Outreach Centers and Adolescent Club Houses statewide to provide safe spaces for teens in recovery that deliver health and wellness services for teens and young adults.


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