Assemblyman Santabarbara: Assembly Passes Legislation To Confront Heroin Abuse Crisis

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (D-Rotterdam) announced that the Assembly passed legislation that would combat, prevent and treat opioid drug abuse. The series of measures comes in response to the recent rise in the use of heroin and prescription painkillers in New York State. The package is the result of a bipartisan agreement between the Assembly, Senate and governor, and it is expected to be signed into law. “Drug abuse knows no boundaries; it can tear apart families and communities and leave a harrowing path of destruction in its wake,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara. “With heroin use increasing at an alarming rate, it’s important we confront this crisis head-on and do all we can to both prevent drug abuse and treat those who have succumbed to it.” Within the last 10 years, admissions to hospitals, rehab centers and treatment programs for heroin and prescription opiate abuse have increased significantly in Albany, Montgomery and Schenectady counties. Schenectady County alone has seen a 116 percent increase in these admissions between 2004 and 2013, while Montgomery County saw an increase of 45 percent.1 Reports also show that heroin and other opiates were responsible for 23 percent of admissions to treatment centers in Albany County in 2013, up from 5 percent in 2000.2 Increasing access to treatment One of the measures will increase access to substance abuse treatment services by requiring health care insurers to utilize providers who specialize in substance abuse disorder services. The bill will also require that coverage is provided during an appeals process, helping to relieve the financial burden often faced by those seeking treatment (A.10164). The legislation will also help ensure that proper treatment and support is readily available. It will establish a demonstration program to prevent relapse and promote long-term recovery by providing comprehensive services to patients during treatment and for up to nine months after successful completion of a treatment program (A.10160). These services will include legal, financial and peer support to maintain a drug-free lifestyle, noted Assemblyman Santabarbara. Cracking down on offenders Measures were also passed to discourage the illegal distribution of controlled substances. One piece of legislation seeks to combat prescription fraud as it pertains to opioids by making it a clearly defined crime (A.10155). Additionally, the illegal sale of a controlled substance by a practitioner or pharmacist, regardless of its prescription status, will now be a class C felony (A.10154). This will crack down on criminals who illegally dispense drugs, keeping these harmful substances off our streets, Assemblyman Santabarbara noted. By taking thorough measures to decrease heroin abuse and treat it, we’re not only helping those directly affected by addiction but also communities as a whole, Assemblyman Santabarbara concluded. _______________________________________