By: Eden Laikin and Caitlin Kelly
Several of the drug abuse prevention initiatives recommended in a 2012 report by Nassau County, have been adopted by New York State’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction.
The proposed legislation – which could save countless lives – is part of a 25-bill package released this week by the State’s newly-formed task force, led by State Senator Phil Boyle (R – Islip) and created to help “save lives and prevent tragedies.”
According to the CDC, deaths by Opioids – such as Heroin and prescription drugs – now outnumber deaths by traffic accidents. Since 2011, more than 498 people died in Nassau from Opioid overdoses.
County Executive Ed Mangano created the Nassau County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force in 2011 to respond to the growing epidemic. The group, made up of professionals in the areas of treatment, recovery, mental health and law enforcement put together a report with 20 recommendations, half of which were legislative. That report was given to the Senate task force at its Long Island hearing earlier this year.
Nassau County’s Director of Community Services for the Office of Mental Health and Chemical Dependency, Dr. James Dolan, joined with other health experts, law enforcement officials, recovering addicts and family members, to testify at that hearing as well.
One of Nassau County’s recommendations, which is now part of legislation expected to be approved by the entire state Senate this session and then moved to the Assembly for a vote, would expand the state’s Overdose Prevention program by making Narcan – the antidote to an Opioid overdose – available in schools and other public buildings in case of emergency, the same way AEDs and Epipens are. Other potential legislation proposed by both task forces include stiffer penalties for drug dealers; involuntary admission to treatment for substance abusers deemed to be a danger to themselves or others; a requirement that insurance companies provide coverage for substance abuse treatment as they would for other diseases; education and training on pain pill addiction for doctors and other prescribers; and stronger drug abuse awareness programs in schools focused on students as young as 12.
Along with the suggestion for establishing assisted outpatient treatment for those suffering from substance abuse, Dolan proposed an integrated approach for addiction and mental health treatment, and increased prevention efforts in schools.
Other recommendations by the Nassau County panel have already been implemented. For example, drug drop off boxes are now located in each of Nassau’s eight police precincts or policing centers and people can anonymously drop off unwanted substances every day, any time of the day or night. What’s more, Nassau has implemented an active overdose prevention program training more than 1,700 people thus far in how to administer Narcan to save a life. Those Narcan trainings also include critical information on drug abuse and awareness given by a panel of experts.
The 25 bills proposed by the State Senate Task Force:
Preventing Opioid Abuse and Overdoses
1. Increasing public awareness about the danger of drug abuse, signs of addiction, and relevant programs and resources and reducing the stigma associated with drug addiction.
2. Establishing drug prevention programs in junior high school and high school health curriculums.
3. Allowing the opioid overdose reversal antidote, naloxone or trade name Narcan, to be administered in schools without liability.
4. Making sure that information on addiction treatment and how to access it is provided in Narcan kits that are distributed at training sessions.
5. Requires Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to post guidelines and requirements for conducting a pharmaceutical collection event on its website.
6. Limits certain controlled substances or pain killers to a 10-day supply to prevent misuse or abuse.
7. Creation of a continuing medical education program for practitioners, teaching appropriate prescribing, pain management, and dealing with addiction.
Increasing the Availability and Efficacy of Addiction Treatment
8. Establishing the program to provide a new model of detoxification for individuals seeking to recover from opioid addiction, which reduces reliance on emergency room services.
9. Creating a relapse prevention demonstration program where OASAS provides case management and referral services for nine months to individuals who successfully complete substance abuse programs.
10. Enabling parents or guardians to petition to have a minor child designated as a Person in Need of Supervision (PINS) due to a substance use disorder, which may require the child to undergo treatment.
11. Enabling a court to order assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) for an individual with a substance use disorder who is deemed a danger to him or herself or others.
12. Promoting the affordability of substance abuse services by requiring insurers to provide coverage for substance use issues as they would for any disease.
Providing Additional Resources to Law Enforcement
13. Studying the feasibility of converting closed correctional facilities to provide treatment for substance use disorders.
14. Restricting drug dealers from participating in substance abuser treatment in jail.
15. Expanding provisions for maintaining safety of judicial diversion program’s staff.
16. Reallocating asset forfeiture funds from the State to reimburse localities for various drug related services.
17. Increasing to B felony charges, the selling of controlled substances near treatment facilities.
18. Reducing the criteria and amounts necessary to be considered a major drug trafficker.
19. Allowing prosecution for a new crime of transporting an opioid controlled substance.
20. Establishing criteria for the amount of opioid possession to be convicted as a drug dealer.
21. Making it a crime of homicide to sell an opioid controlled substance that caused the death of another person.
22. Increasing penalties to B felony charges for doctors and pharmacists who illegally sell controlled substances.
23. Establishing criminal penalties for the theft of blank official New York State prescription pads.
24. Increasing the penalties for theft of controlled substances (Passed Senate 3/24/2014).
25. Creating a law to prosecute acts by street gangs relating to drug trafficking.
For the full state Senate Task Force report, go to: http://www.nysenate.gov/files/Joint_Senate_Heroin_Addiction_Task_Force_Final_Report_5-27-14.pdf