ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR) — Opioid overdose deaths in New York State decreased in 2018 for the first time this decade, but the fight against the opioid epidemic is not over.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently released a proposal that will be presented at the 2020 State of the State Address, to further combat the opioid epidemic.
Cuomo’s proposal is to ban fentanyl analogs and increase medication-assisted treatment in hard to reach communities. Fentanyl analogs are a deadly synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
“The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that continues to ravage too many communities across this country. In New York we have taken aggressive action to combat this disease, and we are seeing results with the first reduction in opioid deaths in 10 years,” Governor Cuomo said. “Despite this progress, drug dealers have turned to lacing opioids and other illicit drugs with fentanyl analogs — a deadly synthetic opioid that current law does not ban. This two-pronged proposal will tackle that problem by banning these dangerous fentanyl copycats and providing treatment to people suffering from opioid addiction before it’s too late.”
Although the overall number of overdose deaths is declining in New York State, overdose deaths involving fentanyl and its analogs among New Yorkers outside of New York City increased 124 percent in 2016 and again by another 28 percent in 2017.
Fentanyl analogs are not illegal in New York State. This is because although some analogs are prohibited by the federal government’s controlled substances schedule, they are not listed in the state’s schedule, creating a loophole that prevents prosecution.
Governor Cuomo wants to advance legislation to ban illicit fentanyl analogs making fentanyl analogs subject to the same criminal sale or possession penalties as other controlled substances.
The proposed legislation will also give the State Department of Health commissioner the authority to add additional analogs to the list of controlled substances. This will allow the state to stay in front of these deadly substances as they appear on the market.
Under Governor Cuomo, the NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) has used mobile clinics and telehealth to give treatment to people who otherwise may not be able to get help. However Cuomo says more can be done, and he is proposing aggressive actions to expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
- Expansion of the Medication Assisted Treatment and Emergency Referrals (MATTERS) Program: Governor Cuomo proposes expanding a pilot that provides MAT to patients identified with Opioid Use Disorder in Emergency Departments. These individuals will rapidly be transitioned into long-term treatment at a community clinic of their own choosing, all within 24-48 hours.
- MAT Telemedicine Program: The Governor proposes improving access to MAT by connecting emergency departments with doctors who can prescribe buprenorphine through telehealth.
- Expanding Access to Telehealth and Mobile Clinics: The Governor will direct OASAS to continue to expand access to these resources in underserved communities across the state by adding 10 new mobile clinics, one in each economic development zone statewide. In addition, in order to ensure access to addiction treatment in every region of the state, the Governor will direct OASAS to develop telehealth capacity by funding equipment for at least one addiction treatment program in each county across the state.
- Expanding Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Correctional Settings: Governor Cuomo will direct DOCCS to expand access to Medication-Assisted Treatment by providing buprenorphine in the 7 facilities currently offering methadone. In addition, the Governor will direct DOCCS to seek national certification and accreditation to operate an Opioid Treatment Program, creating the Nation’s first state corrections-operated OTP in the country.
Governor Cuomo will present the proposal during his 2020 State of the State Address which is scheduled for January 8.