Governor Will Advance Legislation to Add 11 Types of Fentanyl to Controlled Substance List, Allowing Law Enforcement to Crack Down on Dealers and Combat Emerging New Drugs
Governor Directs DFS to Take Immediate Action to Advise Insurers Against Placing Arbitrary Limits on Coverage for Overdose Reversal Drugs
View DFS Circular Letter Here
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a series of aggressive new actions to combat the fentanyl crisis in communities in Western New York and across New York State. The Governor will advance legislation to add 11 fentanyl analogs to the state controlled substances schedule, giving law enforcement the ability to go after the dealers who manufacture and sell. To further protect New Yorkers, the Governor is also directing the New York State Department of Financial Services to take immediate action to Advise Insurers Against placing arbitrary limits on the number of naloxone doses covered by an insurance plan. As fentanyl can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and it can take multiple doses of naloxone to reverse a fentanyl overdose, this new measure will ensure access to adequate doses of overdose reversal medication and save lives.
"Fentanyl is a new front in New York's ongoing fight against opioids, and our laws need to stay one step ahead of dealers who distribute this poison," Governor Cuomo said. "We need to give law enforcement the tools to hold criminals accountable and keep these dangerous substances off our streets and out of the hands of our children."
In New York State, overdose deaths involving opioids increased nearly 35 percent between 2015 and 2016. However, fentanyl-related deaths increased at a much higher rate—nearly 160 percent statewide. Fentanyl-related deaths in New York City increased by more than 310 percent, while fentanyl-related deaths in counties outside of New York City increased by more than 110 percent.
Over the past few years, fentanyl analogs have been increasingly found in heroin and cocaine sold in New York State. They are also being pressed into pill form to resemble name-brand prescription opioids. Fentanyl analogs vary in potency, but can be 100 times stronger than morphine. Just three milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal, compared to 30 milligrams of heroin. Heroin and cocaine containing deadly concentrations of these synthetic opioids have been increasingly present in communities throughout New York State.
To combat the fentanyl crisis, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to close a glaring loophole in state law and add the following 11 fentanyl analogs to Schedule I of the controlled substance schedules of New York State Public Health Law §3306: AH-7921; Acetyl Fentanyl; ButyrylFentanyl; Beta-Hydroxythiofentanyl; Furanyl Fentanyl; U-47700; and Acryl Fentanyl (or Acryloylfentanyl); N-(4-fluorophenyl)-N-(1-phenethylpiperidin-4-yl)isobutyramide; Ortho-Fluorofentanyl; Tetrahydrofuranyl Fentanyl; Methoxyacetyl Fentanyl. The 11 substances are already listed on the federal schedule of controlled substances. The legislation will also give the New York State Health Commissioner the authority to add to the state controlled substances schedule any new drugs that have been added to the federal schedule.
As just .25 milligrams of fentanyl, or about the size of a head of a pin, can potentially result in death, the state is taking new measures to stop the scourge of this dangerous drug. Over the past three years across the country, deaths from synthetic drugs like fentanyl, have sky-rocketed more than 500 percent. At the Governor's direction, DFS will take immediate action to prevent insurers from placing arbitrary limits on coverage for overdose reversal drugs, and ensure New Yorkers have access to adequate doses of life-saving naloxone.
In New York State, a preliminary analysis conducted by the Department of Health identified more than 2,900 opioid-related deaths among state residents in 2016. At the same time, fentanyl-related deaths among residents increased at a much higher rate—nearly 160 percent statewide.
In Western New York, overdose deaths involving opioids increased 10 percent between 2015 and 2016. A preliminary analysis conducted by the Department of Health identified more than 340 opioid-related deaths among residents across the region in 2016. However, fentanyl-related deaths among residents increased at a much higher rate—more than 40 percent region-wide.
Fentanyl proper is a Schedule II synthetic opiate, with medical uses as a painkiller, an anesthetic, and in palliative care. Fentanyl's listing as a Schedule II controlled substance, available by prescription only, makes it a felony to sell on the street and a crime to use the opiate without a prescription. In response, underground labs have tweaked the molecular structure of fentanyl to create new, unregulated chemicals referred to as fentanyl analogs. These deadly cousins are chemically similar to fentanyl—and often many times more potent—but are not listed on New York State's schedule of controlled substances, and therefore not subject to the same criminal penalties.
"Fentanyl is a new front in New York's ongoing fight against opioids, and our laws need to stay one step ahead of dealers who distribute this poison."
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Co-Chair of the Heroin and Opioid Task Force, said, "New York is taking aggressive steps to address the opioid epidemic which is wreaking havoc on our communities and showing us that addiction knows no bounds. Opioids and the over-prescription of dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl have cost our state too many young lives. The Governor's multi-faceted plan of action will help get these deadly drugs off our streets and help people access lifesaving treatment."
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Fentanyl and its synthetic analogs are extremely dangerous substances that have no place in New York outside of fentanyl's controlled medical use and I commend Governor Cuomo for these bold actions and his continued leadership on fighting the opioid epidemic. We have lost too many New Yorkers to these deadly substances, and it is imperative for the legislature to act to protect New Yorkers struggling with addiction and penalize those who distribute these lethal substances."
New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "Fentanyl and its analogs are killing people across New York State and the country, and the more people know about its danger, the better. Governor Cuomo's efforts announced today will save lives."
State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, "Our members have firsthand experience with overdose deaths caused by fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, which dealers often mix with heroin to increase its potency. These actions will help us hold these dealers accountable, and educate the public about the dangers of these deadly drugs."
Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said, "New York is leading the charge to end the opioid epidemic, and Naloxone is a crucial tool in the fight to prevent unnecessary overdose deaths. DFS is proud to support the Governor's efforts with the guidance we are issuing to insurers today, which will help save lives and make progress toward ending this crisis."
Senator Timothy M. Kennedy said, "The opioid epidemic continues to be national crisis, and is often exacerbated by synthetic drugs like fentanyl. We need to do everything we can to stem the spread of these toxic substances, and ensure that no New Yorker is barred from the care they need, regardless of cost. I thank Governor Cuomo for once again taking action to guarantee that people who are struggling with addiction can receive the treatment they need."
Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace said, "I applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership in tackling the deadly opioid epidemic. Our country is facing a health care crisis when it comes to opioid addiction. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York is setting a national example to combat this crisis. In the face of the new and growing challenge of fentanyl, New York State is again stepping up to protect our communities. I look forward to partnering with Governor Cuomo in the Assembly to break down barriers to treatment and continue confronting the opioid epidemic head-on."
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarzsaid,"Combatting the opioid crisis requires a strong and united approach involving all levels of government. With these new actions, Governor Cuomo is taking aggressive steps to protect New Yorkers from the deadly scourge of addictive drugs, including various forms of fentanyl. We have witnessed synthetic drugs tear families apart and ruin the lives of far too many individuals, including many who live here in Erie County. It is critical that we take firm legal action to prevent drug dealers and other organizations from inundating our communities with these deadly substances."
Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said, "Fentanyl is a growing menace that has exacerbated the current opioid crisis, but law enforcement officers in New York are too often hamstrung in their efforts to crack down on this sinister substance. By calling on the Legislature to classify all forms of fentanyl and similar drugs as controlled substances, Governor Cuomo is giving law enforcement the tools they need to protect New Yorkers and taking another important step forward in the fight against the opioid epidemic."
Mayor Byron W. Brown said, "For too long, the opioid crisis has silently crept through our communities, taking a growing toll of overdose and death for the addicted, and emotional pain for their family and friends, here in the City of Buffalo, and across New York State. The aggressive actions Governor Cuomo has taken today will fight the deadly fallout from opioid addition on two key fronts - criminalizing the new street drugs that have emerged to entice the addicted, and broadening insurance coverage so more lives can be saved by overdose reversal medications."
The Governor's call for legislative action builds upon New York's multi-faceted strategy to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic. In April of this year, the Governor signed historic legislation investing over $200 million to address the epidemic through a comprehensive approach targeting each component of heroin and opioid addition- prevention, treatment, and recovery. These investments included:
- $145 million for community-based providers
- $65 million for 8,000 residential treatment beds
- $9 million for housing units
- $41 million for opioid treatment programs
- $21 million for outpatient services
- $9 million for crisis/detox programs
- $27 million for state-operated addiction treatment centers
- $6 million for naloxone kits and training
- $25 million for expanded programs, including family support navigators, peer engagement and 24/7 urgent access centers
Over the past three years, Governor Cuomo has put into place expansive new policies to fight heroin and opioid addiction, including:
- Limiting initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain from 30 to 7 days
- Expanding insurance coverage for substance use disorder treatment
- Increasing access and enhancing treatment capacity across the state, including a major expansion of opioid treatment and recovery services
- Implementing the comprehensive I-STOP law to curb prescription drug abuse
- Launching a public awareness and prevention campaign to inform New Yorkers about the dangers of heroin use and opioid misuse and the disease of addiction
- Assembling a task force to propose initiatives to tackle the heroin and opioid epidemic
New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).
Available addiction treatment including crisis/detox, inpatient, community residence, or outpatient care can be found using the new and improved NYS OASAS Treatment Availability Dashboard at FindAddictionTreatment.ny.gov or through the Access Treatment page on the NYS OASAS website. Visit the #CombatAddiction website at oasas.ny.gov/CombatAddiction to learn more about how you can help to #CombatAddiction in your community.
Visit www.combatheroin.ny.gov for more information on addressing heroin and prescription opioid abuse, including a Kitchen Table Tool Kit to help start the conversation about the warning signs of addiction and where to get help. For tools to use in talking to a young person about preventing alcohol or drug use, visit the State's Talk2Prevent website.