Senate Democrats pass 17 bills to combat opioid crisis

Photo Courtesy of Cloey Callahan
Sen. Pete Harckham, D-South Salem, stands alongside alongside other Senate Democrats at a new conference announcing the passing of 17 bills aimed at combatting the opioid addiction crisis.

Senate Democrats recently passed 17 bills aimed at combating the opioid addiction crisis following a years-long study of addiction and treatment issues in New York. In conjunction with the passing of these bills, the Senate Majority released a report that was generated by the Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction and Overdose Prevention. 

The Task Force, made up of co-chairs Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, Sen. Pete Harckham, D-South Salem, and Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-Kingsbridge Heights, met with those directly impacted by the crisis, medical and treatment professionals and advocates in order to gather information that would be useful to best address the situation at hand.

“The opioid crisis has destroyed lives and devastated communities throughout our state,” said Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers. “The Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention has worked tirelessly holding hearings, coordinating with experts, and helping develop legislation to address this crisis.”

The Task Force, consisting of 12 bi-partisan members, held eight hearings and roundtables, as well as six site visits across New York and even one visit to Canada during this past summer and fall. After gathering all of this information, the Task Force was able to compile a comprehensive report that Co-Chair David Carlucci suggested be used as a blueprint for a pathway moving forward. 

“New York has to lead the way and save lives,” Carlucci said. “Our legislation and report takes a multifaceted approach to aggressively and comprehensively addressing addiction prevention, treatment and recovery.”

The legislation that was passed by the Senate Majority includes bills pertaining to educating medical professionals; opioid prescribing; access to overdose reversal medications; ensuring access to evidence-based, person-centered treatment; insurance; recovery; criminal justice and child welfare. 

The passage of these important bills addressing the opioid crisis demonstrates that my Senate colleagues and I are taking a multi-faceted approach to saving lives,” said Task Force Co-Chair Pete Harckham. “These are important steps toward a larger and critical awareness that lives can be saved, and must be saved, with smart, thoughtful policies regarding treating substance Use Disorder and preventing overdose fatalities.”

Among the 16 senators and advocates who spoke at the event was Angela Robinson who lost her son to opioid addiction. She explained how the advancement of these bills would give the families the necessary tools when a loved one needs help. 

Robinson discussed the importance of Stephen’s Law (S.4741-b), sponsored by Sen. Harckham, that would require treatment programs to notify patients of their right to name an emergency contact. 

Stepehen’s Law is named after Stephen Canastraro who signed a release form that provided his mother with access to his medical information, although ultimately his mother was not informed of his missed appointments and testing positive for drug use — both were major warning signs of his relapse. He passed away on August 24, 2018. 

Photo Courtesy of Cloey Callahan
Angela Robinson tells her firsthand experience with the opioid epidemic as she stands with her daughter who is holding a photo in memoriam of Robinson’s son.

“This would be a safety net for those who choose to name an emergency contact,” said Robinson.

This law would also require the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to develop guidelines for protocols to be used by treatment programs in communicating with these contacts. 

Some of the other 16 bills that were passed in the Senate include updated training for controlled substance prescribers (S.7102-A); access to overdose-deterrent drugs such as Naloxone for those discharged from a treatment center or prison (S.6650); establishing a recovery living task force to look at housing issues (S.4496-A); and treatment in correctional facilities (S.6288-A).

All 17 bills were sent to the Assembly on February 4.