Governor Signs Bills to Combat Opioid Crisis in New York

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On October 7, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, D, signed several bills into law that will specifically combat the opioid crisis in New York. “Like too many New Yorkers, I know what it’s like to lose a loved one to addiction,” the governor tweeted following the signing event. “There’s an empty chair at our family table where my nephew, Michael, should be. This is personal for me. Today we’re taking action to combat the opioid epidemic and offer New Yorkers hope.”

The bills signed include: S911/A2354, S1795/A533, S2523/A868, S6044/A128, and S7228/A5511. Each bill has a similar version introduced into each the Senate and the Assembly. That way, each bill is discussed at the same time. Then changes happen relatively quickly as a joint committee comes together to create a single version. The single version of a bill then goes to the governor. 

Together, this series of bills covers:

  • Decriminalizing the possession of opioid antagonist medications, such as Naloxone
  • Establishing a program for medical assisted substance use disorder treatment for those incarcerated in state and local facilities
  • Decriminalizing the possession and sale of hypodermic needles and syringes
  • Establishing an online directory for distributors of opioid antagonists to make the antagonists more accessible for New York citizens who want to have life-saving medicine on hand
  • Expanding the number of eligible crimes with substance use disorder previously defined as diversion. Those crimes can be placed into a substance use treatment plan
    • Additionally, change ‘substance abuse’ to ‘substance use.’

Response

Several lawmakers in the New York State Senate and Assembly spoke in favor of Governor Hochul’s move towards harm reduction and combating the opioid crisis.

Senator James Sanders Jr., explained his support for the new bills. “Opioid addiction is a scourge on our society–causing great pain and suffering on those addicted, their families and friends. Deaths from opioid overdoses nationwide was nearly 50,000 in 2019, according to the CDC. This legislation will lead to less opioid deaths by encouraging people to use medicine that can save lives since using such medicine will not be used as evidence against them in a court of law.”

Another lawmaker, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, said, “New York has been working on syringe access since we legalized non-prescription possession of syringes in 2000. Syringe exchange programs have been a critical tool in the fight to reduce HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C transmission and protect drug user health. Unfortunately, people are still getting arrested because of technical gaps in the law. The bill Governor Hochul is signing will finish the job of decriminalizing possession. I thank the many advocates and Senate sponsor Gustavo Rivera for years of hard work on this issue and applaud Governor Hochul for her swift action signing this important bill.”

Next Steps

With the opioid crisis in the forefront of lawmakers’ minds, these New York State laws could set a basis for other states moving forward. Several other states are working towards harm reduction regarding the opioid crisis by legalizing safe consumption sites. 

These sites will offer trained medical professionals who can respond to a potential overdose in a quick fashion. Quick responses increase the chance of reversing an overdose and saving a person’s life. Rhode Island legalized safe consumption sites earlier this year and California is looking to do the same beginning next year. As more information becomes available, we will update you with the latest.

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