Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Western New York on Wednesday to sign legislation that aims to tackle a growing opioid problem across the state.
An opioid is any substance that produces a morphine-like effect. Opioids include opiates, such as morphine, and synthetic drugs such as hydrocodone and fentanyl. Heroin is also considered an opioid.
The new legislation signed by the governor will limit the number of opioid prescriptions from 30 days to 7 days (exceptions for chronic pain patients), require mandatory training for doctors regarding the use of opioids and break down insurance barriers by eliminating prior-authorization requirements.
It also allows families to seek 72-hours of emergency treatment for loved-ones suffering from addiction. That is up from the current 48-hours. Under the law, more beds and slots will be opened for treatment of those with substance use disorders.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan says the opioid issue begins in the doctor's office. Opioids can be addictive and oftentimes, if someone becomes addicted, when they no longer have a prescription they turn to illegal drugs, like heroin.
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul was also at the signing Wednesday. She says nine people are dying each week because of opioids. She says this legislation marks a turning point in the battle to curb opioid addictions and deaths.
Gov. Cuomo says he's getting calls from other states who are also dealing with an explosion in opioid-related deaths. "We’re losing as many people to heroin and opioid overdoses as we lost to the AIDS epidemic at its peak," said Gov. Cuomo
The governor made a special mention thanking all those parents who lost children to the opioid epidemic and continued to push for changes. Avi and Julie Israel were specially mentioned for their efforts. heir son Michael committed suicide after becoming addicted to pain medication.
After the legislation signing ceremony, Julie Israel said she felt her son's spirit played a big role in getting the new law passed so others will not have to suffer.
Below is a list of all of the changes the legislation makes:
REMOVE BURDENSOME BARRIERS TO ACCESS FOR INPATIENT TREATMENT AND MEDICATION
- Ends Prior Insurance Authorization to Allow for Immediate Access to Inpatient Treatment as Long as Such Treatment is Needed: People suffering from addiction who seek treatment need immediate access to services, but prior authorization requirements by insurance companies are often a roadblock to admission to inpatient programs. This legislation requires insurers to cover necessary inpatient services for the treatment of substance use disorders for as long as an individual needs them. In addition, the legislation establishes that utilization review by insurers can begin only after the first 14 days of treatment, ensuring that every patient receives at least two weeks of uninterrupted, covered care before the insurance company becomes involved.
- Ends Prior Insurance Authorization to Allow for Greater Access to Drug Treatment Medications: People seeking medication to manage withdrawal symptoms or maintain recovery must often request prior approval from their insurance company, which slows or stops the individual from getting needed medication. This legislation prohibits insurers from requiring prior approval for emergency supplies of these medications. Similar provisions will also apply to managed care providers treating Medicaid recipients who seek access to buprenorphine and injectable naltrexone.
- Requires All Insurance Companies Use Objective State-Approved Criteria to Determine the Level of Care for Individuals Suffering from Substance Abuse: Insurance companies often use inconsistent criteria to determine the covered level of care for persons suffering from substance use disorder, which often creates barriers preventing these individuals from receiving care. This legislation will require all insurers operating in New York State to use objective, state-approved criteria when making coverage determinations for all substance use disorder treatment in order to make sure individuals get the treatment they need.
- Mandate Insurance Coverage for Opioid Overdose-Reversal Medication: Naloxone is a medication that revives an individual from a heroin or opioid overdose and has saved thousands of New Yorkers’ lives. To expand access to this life-saving medication, the new legislation requires insurance companies to cover the costs of naloxone when prescribed to a person who is addicted to opioids and to his/her family member/s on the same insurance plan.
ENHANCE ADDICTION TREATMENT SERVICES
- Increase Evaluation for Individuals Incapacitated by Drugs from 48 to 72-Hours: Sometimes, individuals suffering from addiction are at risk for overdose and thus pose a threat to themselves. The legislation allows families to seek 72-hours of emergency treatment, an increase from the current 48-hours, for their loved one so that they can be stabilized and connected to longer-term addiction treatment options while also balancing individual rights of the incapacitated individuals.
- Require Hospitals to Provide Follow-Up Treatment Service Options to Individuals Upon Hospital Discharge: Hospitals play an important role in caring for individuals suffering from addiction who are often admitted to hospital emergency rooms after an overdose. This legislation requires hospital medical staff to provide discharge-planning services to connect patients who have or are at-risk for substance use disorder with nearby treatment options to provide continuous medical care.
- Allow More Trained Professionals to Administer Life-Saving Overdose-Reversal Medication: Overdose-reversal medication such as naloxone saves lives. However, the law does not currently allow certain licensed professionals to administer this medication to individuals overdosing from heroin and opioids. To ensure that more people are able to help reverse overdoses, the new legislation authorizes trained professionals to administer naloxone in emergency situations without risk to their professional license.
- Expand Wraparound Services to Support Long-Term Recovery: Individuals leaving treatment are at great risk for relapse. To provide services during this critical period, the legislation extends the wraparound program launched in 2014 to provide services to individuals completing treatment including education and employment resources; legal services; social services; transportation assistance, childcare services; and peer support groups.
STRENGTHEN COMMUNITY PREVENTION STRATEGIES
- Reduce Prescription Limits for Opioids from 30-days to Seven Days: There is a well-established link between the rise in opioid prescriptions and the current heroin crisis. To reduce unnecessary access to opioids, the legislation lowers the limit for opioid prescriptions for acute pain from 30-days to no more than a 7-day supply, with exceptions for chronic pain and other conditions.
- Require Ongoing Education on Addiction & Pain Management for All Physicians and Prescribers: Physicians and other opioid prescribers are important partners in preventing addiction linked to abuse of prescription opioids. To ensure that prescribers understand the risks presented by prescription opioids, the legislation mandates that these health care professionals complete three hours of education every three years on addiction, pain management, and palliative care.
- Mandate Pharmacists Provide Easy to Understand Information on Risks Associated with Drug Addiction and Abuse: Consumers may not understand the addiction and abuse risks posed by prescription opioids. To improve consumer awareness about these risks the legislation requires pharmacists to provide educational materials to consumers about the risk of addiction, including information about local treatment services.
- Require Data Collection on Overdoses and Prescriptions to Assist the State in Providing Additional Protections to Combat this Epidemic: Current and accurate data is critical to combat the heroin and opioid crisis yet gaps currently exist in statewide data on overdoses and usage of opioid reversal medication. To fill that gap the legislation requires the State Commissioner of Health to report county-level data on opioid overdoses and usage of overdose-reversal medication on a quarterly basis.