End of Session 2018: Fighting the Heroin and Opioid Addiction Epidemic

From day one I pledged to the people I represent I would fight for those suffering from addiction. Our work is far from over, but this year we did more to generate tangible results in our communities and save lives as we continue to battle the heroin & opioid addiction epidemic that's ravaged families across New York State.

Record Funding for for Prevention, Treatment, Recovery and Education

The Senate Task Force helped secure a record level of funding this year, approximately $250 million, to strengthen prevention, treatment, recovery and education services across the state. This funding was an increase of $20 million beyond the Governor’s proposed plans for 2018, and $37 million over last year’s level, including:

  • $10.6 million to support services including more residential treatment beds, a new Recovery and Community Outreach Center, and an Adolescent Clubhouse program to provide peer support activities and events that help maintain a sober and substance-free lifestyle;
  • $3.8 million for the development and implementation of substance use disorder treatment in local jails; and
  •  $1.5 million for the creation of an Independent Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Ombudsman to assist individuals in receiving appropriate health insurance coverage.


In addition to record funding, the budget includes a Senate-driven initiative to help prevent and address an increase in the number of babies born addicted to opioids. The budget creates a new program and provides $1 million to further educate and assist health care providers in caring for expectant mothers and new parents with substance use disorders and help ensure they receive appropriate care, with an additional $350,000 provided for infant recovery centers.

It also prohibits prior authorization for outpatient substance abuse treatment to ensure people are able to get the help they need immediately. And the budget makes permanent the state’s certified peer recovery program, where those in recovery utilize their expertise and experiences to promote the success of others battling substance abuse.

To help increase the tools available to law enforcement to get dangerous drugs off the streets, the budget adds two new derivatives of fentanyl and several new hallucinogenic drugs, synthetic cannabinoids, and cannabimimetic agents to the state’s controlled substances schedule.

Enacting the “Drug Take Back Act”

The Senate passed a bill that establishes a unified statewide drug take-back program that will save government and taxpayer money and reduce medication misuse. In addition, the program would protect New York State’s water supplies by preventing drugs from being improperly disposed of by flushing or other means that result in contamination of water bodies and negatively impact aquatic life. The Drug Take Back Act holds pharmaceutical manufacturers responsible for all costs of the take-back program, ranging from public education and awareness to drug collection, transport, and destruction of collected drugs. Chain pharmacies and mailorder pharmacies will be required to provide consumers with collection options including drop boxes and prepaid mail-back envelopes. The measure also ensures communities in rural and underserved areas as well as cities have access to ongoing collection services so that all persons have reasonable access to locations to dispose of their drugs and prevent over-saturation in higher populated areas. S9100, passed both houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon and Senator Tom O’Mara.

Preventing Predatory and Deceptive Substance Abuse Treatment

The Senate passed a bill that makes it a crime to offer to or accept any kickback from an individual or entity that provides substance abuse services in exchange for patient referral and admission. There has been a rise in individuals who aggressively pursue people in need of substance use disorder treatment services and, for a sometimes-extravagant fee, promise admission to treatment programs. For individuals engaging in this predatory behavior, the most desirable patients are those with robust insurance coverage, and out-of-network benefit packages. Patient brokers refer these clients to programs offering the highest rate of “return” to the patient broker, with little or no regard for the patient’s specific needs. This predatory practice capitalizes on, and exploits, families’ fears while putting patients at risk of inappropriate treatment. S6544B, passed both houses, sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar

Allowing Medical Marijuana Use as an Alternative to Opioids

The Senate passed legislation that allows the use of medical marijuana for the treatment of substance use disorder or as an alternative to opioids for the treatment of episodic pain. S8987A, passed both houses, sponsored by Senator George A. Amedore, Jr.

Increasing Awareness of Drug Take-Back Sites

The Senate passed a bill that creates a new state database to increase public awareness of drug take-back programs throughout the state, helping to prevent unused prescriptions and other dangerous drugs from getting into the hands of others while also protecting crucial water supplies. S6673, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon.

Expanding Access to Funding for State Substance Abuse Services

The Senate passed a bill that authorizes the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to provide funding to substance use disorder and/or compulsive gambling programs operated by for profit agencies. Current statute states all funds issued by OASAS to provide addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services must be awarded to non-profit providers. For-profit organizations, which provide similar services are unable to apply for state contracts through OASAS and such restrictions limits competition within the RFP process that would ensure state dollars are being used in the most efficient way possible. S898A, sponsored by Senator George A. Amedore, Jr.

Coordination of Prescriptions Following an Overdose

The Senate passed a measure that requires hospital and emergency room physicians to notify a patient's prescriber when a patient is being treated for a controlled substance overdose. The measure enhances the effectiveness of the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) Registry when prescribing controlled substances by ensuring that vital medical information is shared among health care practitioners. The bill requires an emergency room or hospital practitioner treating a patient with an opioid overdose to consult the PMP registry and notify the patient's prescriber of the overdose. Without such notification of the overdose, it is very possible that the prescriber/practitioner would not know that the patient had suffered an opioid overdose. S2639, sponsored by Andrew Lanza.

Limiting Children’s Opioid Exposure

The Senate passed a bill that addresses the increasing risk of children becoming addicted to opioids and heroin after being prescribed painkillers for medical procedures or illegally sharing extra prescriptions. The bill requires a health practitioner to receive written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian in order to prescribe a medical treatment containing opioids, as well as to discuss the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose associated with the medication. The bill also limits the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to a seven-day duration unless there is a medical emergency that puts the child’s health or safety at risk. S5949, sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar.

Enacting “Laree’s Law” to Hold Drug Dealers Accountable

The Senate passed a bill that establishes the crime of homicide by sale of an opiate controlled substance. Currently, a person who provides an illicit drug that results in the death of a user can typically only be charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, allowing those involved in the illicit drug trade to escape prosecution for the deaths caused by their actions. S2761, sponsored by Senator George A. Amedore, Jr.

Creating Drug Free Zones Around Drug or Alcohol Treatment Centers

The Senate passed a measure that criminalizes the sale of a controlled substance on the grounds of a drug or alcohol treatment center, or within 1,000 feet of such facilities. Statistics show that drug dealers often prey on individuals with addictions by sitting in the immediate vicinity of a drug or alcohol treatment center or methadone clinic waiting for people to come out so they can sell them drugs. S1127, sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar.

Making it Easier to Prosecute Heroin Dealers

The Senate passed a bill that assists in the prosecution of heroin dealers by creating a presumption that the possession of 50 or more individual packages containing heroin and/or having an aggregate value of $300 is possession with intent to sell. Currently, dealers can carry large quantities of the drug before triggering a felony charge of possession. S638, sponsored by Senator Phil Boyle.

Establishing New Penalties for Heroin Sales

The Senate passed a bill that creates appropriate-level penalties for heroin sales, taking into account the lighter weight of heroin. Heroin weighs less than other drugs and therefore more doses of heroin are needed to trigger various existing criminal offenses. S880, sponsored by Senator Robert Ortt.

Cracking Down on Black Market Prescription Drugs

The Senate passed a bill that establishes the offense of fraudulent prescription, dispensing, and procurement of non-controlled substance prescription medications and devices, and establish the offense of unlawful possession of non-controlled substance prescription medications and devices. The gaps in existing law and the growth of a black market make it self-evident that change is necessary. This bill will address the problem by increasing or establishing criminal penalties that better fit these crimes. S2814, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon.

Strengthening Penalties for Sale of a Controlled Substance to Minor

The Senate passed a bill that helps curb rising drug abuse among high school students and other youth by making the sale of a controlled substance by an adult to a minor under the age of 14 a class A-II felony. S3845, sponsored by Senator Kathy Marchione.

Cracking Down on the Sale of Carfentanil

The Senate passed a measure that makes the sale of 2 milligrams or more of Carfentanil a Class A-II felony and the sale of 10 milligrams or more of Carfentanil a Class A-I felony. Carfentanil is synthetic opioid and a schedule II controlled substance, which is 100 times deadlier than fentanyl, and 10,000 times stronger than morphine. S623, sponsored by Senator Phil Boyle.

Improving the Regulation of Fentanyl

The Senate passed a measure that adds six new derivatives of fentanyl to the controlled substance schedule regulated by the state Department of Health. Fentanyl and fentanyl-combined drugs are a major driver of the many recent overdoses that have occurred across New York State. It is vital for public health and safety to properly regulate this potent drug. S5884A, sponsored by Senator Chris Jacobs.

Requiring Patient Counseling Prior to Issuing a Prescription for a Schedule II Opioid

The Senate passed a bill that requires health care practitioners to consult with a patient regarding the quantity of an opioid prescription and the patient’s option to have the prescription written for a lower quantity. The physician must also inform the patient of the risks associated with taking an opiate medication, and the reason for issuing the medication must be documented in the patient’s medical record. This will help prevent addictions that start with legal drug prescriptions. S5670, sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar.

Increasing the Number of Opioid Treatment Services

The Senate passed a bill that authorizes the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to implement a demonstration program designed to increase consumer accessibility to opioid treatment services in geographic areas determined by the commissioner to be in need of such services, and increase the type of companies and organizations – including for-profits - eligible to provide treatment. S8600A, sponsored by Senator George A. Amedore, Jr.