Testimony from local experts reflected in new heroin laws

One of the major accomplishments during the closing days of the legislative session was the enactment of a comprehensive legislative package that addresses many of the issues raised by the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. The measures focus on addiction prevention, access to treatment, and support for New Yorkers in recovery - adding critical new tools to the state’s arsenal to fight the heroin and opioid abuse crisis.

As I have written previously – heroin addiction devastates lives, families, and communities and it is vital that we continue to confront this epidemic from all angles. This public health crisis knows no social, geographic, or economic bounds and while a number of new laws have already been enacted, the tragedies have not stopped.

I have held two task force hearings in my district, and want to say thank you to the local health care professionals, addiction experts, law enforcement officials, and concerned citizens who attended and took part. The testimony from those hearings, along with other hearings around the state, helped formulate the new laws.

The complete legislative package can be found on my website seward.nysenate.gov. Here are a few of the highlights.

Continuing Education on Addiction and Pain Management for All Prescribers: Requires training in pain management, palliative care, and addiction for licensed prescribers. On or before July 1, 2017 and once every three-year period thereafter, prescribers would need to complete three hours of coursework to increase awareness of the risks presented by prescription opioids.

Limiting Initial Opioid Prescriptions to Seven Days: Addresses the issue of overprescribing medications for acute pain by requiring an authorized practitioner to limit the initial prescription of certain opioids to seven days instead of the current 30 days. A practitioner may then prescribe any appropriate renewal, refill, or new opioid or other prescription after the initial seven-day supply.

Ending Prior Insurance Authorization for Immediate Access to Inpatient Treatment Services: Requires up to a minimum of 14 days of coverage for necessary inpatient treatment of substance use disorder (SUD) without prior approval or concurrent utilization review (UR) during those 14 days for in-network providers.

Lengthening the Amount of Time Families Can Seek Emergency Drug Treatment: Extends the amount of time a person can be held to receive emergency services related to substance use from 48 hours to 72 hours. This bill also ensures the provision of adequate discharge planning from treatment facilities, provides individuals with the opportunity to seek further substance use treatment, and requires the dissemination of information on the dangers of long-term substance use and treatment resources.

Using Consistent Criteria to Determine the Medical Necessity of Treatments: Allows providers to determine the most appropriate level of care for a client with a substance abuse disorder, regardless of what diagnostic tool is used to determine treatment service levels. Providers could use either OASAS’s Level of Care for Alcohol and Drug Treatment Referral (LOCADTR) or any other diagnostic tool approved by OASAS – increasing the ability of providers to make sure that patients are able to receive the treatment they need.

Authorizing Emergency Substance Use Disorder Medication Coverage: Requires insurance coverage, without prior authorization, for an emergency five-day supply of medications for treating a substance use disorder when emergency conditions exist. Any copayments or coinsurance collected for the emergency supply must not exceed the copayment or coinsurance otherwise applicable to a 30-day supply of such medication.

Expanding Access to Naloxone/Opioid Reversal Medication Coverage: Requires insurance coverage for Naloxone or other overdose reversal medication, whether it is prescribed to a person who is addicted to opioids or their family member covered under the same insurance plan.

Heroin and opioid addiction is a public health crisis and no one is immune to the crippling effects of this epidemic. New laws already enacted are helping, but we continue to identify gaps in service and other needs that must be addressed. This new comprehensive package will make a difference and will save lives.

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