State Legislature took action to combat heroin epidemic

Posted 14 August 2016 at 9:00 am


The State Legislature wrapped up a marathon session in Albany in June with agreements on a range of issues spanning from ethics reform to zombie properties and fantasy sports.

But, one of the most significant achievements to me is the steps we took to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic that’s wreaked havoc across our state.

My Senate Republican colleagues have led the way on this issue that has affected so many of our communities. I was humbled to serve as co-chair of the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. Together, in formulating budget and legislative initiatives, we held dozens of public forums across the state.

We hosted hundreds of meetings and heard from addicts, family members, law enforcement, health and mental health experts, local residents, and other participants. We heard countless, tragic stories of heroin and opioid abuse that has ripped families apart and has torn through neighborhoods in every corner of the state.

The anti-heroin legislation was one of the signature agreements reached with our partners in government during the last few weeks of session. Recently signed into law, the comprehensive package increases access to treatment, expands prevention strategies, and extends the length of time someone can receive life-saving services.

This agreement builds on the $189 million in related funds we secured as part of the budget and legislation approved by both houses of the State Legislature. Under the new law, opioid scripts are limited from 30 days to seven days to cut down on excessive prescriptions while also ensuring that patients in need are still served.
It also mandates training on addiction and pain management for all physicians and prescribers to achieve the key goals of education and prevention.

Another key pillar to combat this epidemic related to treatment and recovery. Our legislation allows families to seek 72 hours of emergency treatment related to substance use disorder. Beds and program slots for those struggling with substance use, critical to treatment and recovery, are also increasing across the state and expanding in our community.

Finally, by removing roadblocks from insurers to cover necessary inpatient treatment services and requiring plans to cover the costs of opioid overdose-reversal medication like Naloxone (Narcan), we’re taking dramatic steps to empower families and save lives.

I believe these new measures will help break the cycle of heroin and opioid addiction in New York and ultimately save lives. I’m optimistic that next year we will be able to continue this progress while also focusing on needed enforcement components. I’m committed to protecting the lives of all New Yorkers, and combating this epidemic remains a top priority of mine.

That’s because while I’ve heard too many stories of loss and heartbreak, I’ve also head stories of triumph and success in overcoming the evils of drug addiction. I’m hopeful these new initiatives will allow many more individuals to share their victory stories, because after all, that’s what our work represents – hope.
State Sen. Robert Ortt
North Tonawanda

(Ortt represents the 62nd Senate District, which includes Orleans, Niagara and part of Monroe County.)