October 7, 2021
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Signs Legislation Package to Combat Opioid Crisis

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Governor Hochul Signs Legislation Package to Combat Opioid Crisis
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S.911/A.2354 Relates to the Possession of Opioid Antagonists 
  
S.1795/A.533 Relates to the Establishment of a Program for the Use of Medication Assisted Treatment for Incarcerated Individuals 
  
S.2523/A.868 Decriminalizes the Possession and Sale of Hypodermic Needles and Syringes 
  
S.6044/A.128 Establishes an Online Directory for Distributers of Opioid Antagonists 
  
S.7228/A.5511 Relates to a Judicial Diversion Program for Certain Felony Offenders 

Governor Kathy Hochul today at John Jay College signed legislation (S.911/A.2354, S.1795/A.533, S.2523/A.868, S.6044/A.128, S.7228/A.5511) aimed toward reducing drug-related overdose deaths across New York State and encouraging those suffering from addiction to seek help in their recovery.

"Addiction can impact any family, suddenly and harshly - those who find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle are there through no fault of their own," Governor Hochul said. "This is a personal battle for me and I am proud to be able to combat the opioid crisis by signing these bills into law. There is no shame in seeking help for substance use and I want to let all New Yorkers know that we are here for you. Treatment should always be accessible for those who need it."

https://www.youtube.com/embed/FKmX7gD6bog

Legislation S.911/A.2354 amends the criminal procedure law, the civil practice law and rules and the executive law to promote the use of opioid antagonists in preventing drug-related overdoses. This bill will decriminalize possession of opioid antagonists, which are drugs that block opioids by attaching to opioid receptors without activating them. 

Legislation S.1795/A.868 works to establish a program for the use of medication assisted substance use disorder treatment for incarcerated individuals in state and local correctional facilities. Expanding medication assisted treatment, MAT, across state and local facilities will allow incarcerated individuals access to medications and therapies to provide them the opportunity to overcome substance use and lessen the likelihood that they may suffer drug-related overdoses upon their reentry into society.

Legislation S.2523/A.868 decriminalizes the possession and sale of hypodermic needles and syringes. The act of decriminalizing drug-related paraphernalia contributes to public safety by permitting harm reduction approaches for those suffering from substance use disorder and by reducing the rate at which HIV and hepatitis are transmitted. 

Legislation S.6044/A.128 establishes an online directory for distributors of opioid antagonists making them more accessible to New Yorkers who may want to equip themselves with these life-saving medications. The directory is to be maintained by the Office of Addiction Services and Supports on their website.

Legislation S.7228/A.5511 expands the number of eligible crimes committed by individuals with a substance use disorder that may be considered for diversion to a substance use treatment program and updates the term "substance abuse" to "substance use." This ensures judges can order an individual to treatment instead of incarceration, allowing them a greater chance for successful, long-term rehabilitation.

This is a personal battle for me and I am proud to be able to combat the opioid crisis by signing these bills into law.

Governor Hochul

Senator Pete Harckham said, "By signing these five overdose prevention bills, including one I introduced that creates an online directory that locates all distributors statewide of opioid overdose withdrawal drugs, Governor Hochul is helping to save the lives our loved ones and neighbors. Yet many of them are still facing Substance Use Disorder and its many challenges. We need to keep working together to give people every opportunity to get substance use treatment that keeps them on the path toward recovery and good health."

Senator Gustavo Rivera said, "As we face a mounting public health crisis with overdoses on the rise and increased substance use amidst the stress of a global pandemic, New York's laws must embrace harm reduction measures that will actually save lives and protect our communities. Today, Governor Hochul took a critical step to help New Yorkers struggling with substance use by signing a number of measures into law, including my bill to decriminalize syringes, that move us away from criminalization and towards effective treatment. I look forward to continued collaboration with the Governor and harm reduction advocates to advance compassionate, health-focused efforts to end the overdose crisis in our state."

Senator Jamaal Bailey said, "In order to truly turn the tide on the opioid crisis, we must treat it like the public health emergency it is and do everything in our power to ensure help reaches those in greatest need. For far too long, New York's criminal justice system has been painfully overlooked in efforts to combat the opioid crisis that has ravaged communities in the Bronx and across the state. Today, we are taking a historic step to establish a comprehensive care model and expand access to lifesaving treatment for incarcerated New Yorkers struggling with substance use. The bills signed into law today are vital to our ongoing efforts to reform New York's criminal justice system and advance a rehabilitative rather than punitive approach to drug use. This legislation will save countless lives, close the equity gap in health care access for incarcerated individuals, reduce recidivism, and help individuals return to their communities whole. I want to thank Governor Hochul for signing these historic bills, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblymember Diana C. Richardson, Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, my colleagues in both houses, and all of the advocates who fought tirelessly for the passage of these bills."

Senator James Sanders Jr. said, "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."

Governor Hochul Signs Legislation Package to Combat Opioid Crisis

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."

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal said, "More New Yorkers lost their lives to overdose in 2020 than ever before, highlighting the urgent need for expanded supportive services and harm reduction measures. This package of legislation recognizes that addiction must be treated as a public health matter, not a moral failing. With as many as 80% of incarcerated New Yorkers battling a substance use disorder, I am proud we will finally make medication assisted treatment available to those in need behind the wall, just as medical treatment is provided for any other condition. I am also proud to see naloxone, a tool that continues to save countless lives, be made more accessible with a directory that will allow New Yorkers to easily locate it within their communities. This package of bills, including the long overdue decriminalization of hypodermic syringes and expanded access to treatment through judicial diversion, sends the clear message that New York State is leading the fight to end overdose. I thank Governor Hochul for signing these bills into law."

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said, "Opioid antagonists such as naloxone (Narcan) are an incredibly vital tool in the fight against overdose deaths, and we should be doing everything we can to encourage their widespread availability. Experts, including drug treatment providers, physicians, and law enforcement, all have cited the importance of having opioid antagonists available in order to prevent overdose-related deaths. Thank you to Governor Hochul for signing this important bill into law so that people who may be in the best position to reverse an overdose do not avoid carrying Narcan out of fear of legal consequences."

John Coppola, Executive Director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers said, "As New York State continues to experience an epidemic of overdose and addiction, the bills signed by Governor Hochul, today, will help to move our response more toward a comprehensive public health approach and provide significant tools to ensure that all people have access to the care they need."

Ellen Morehouse, Executive Director of Student Assistance Services Corporation said, "I applaud Governor Hochul's continued concern for those who are suffering from the opioid crisis and appreciate her leadership in taking steps to address New York's other pandemic."

Donna Lieberman, NYCLU's Executive Director, said, "This law is an important step to deliver people the medical care they are entitled to and save lives. Medication for opioid use disorder is not optional; it is necessary for many New Yorkers suffering from our national opioid epidemic. Without these doctor-prescribed medications, people with opioid use disorder suffer painful withdrawal and face an increased risk of relapse, overdose, and death—effects that are exacerbated for individuals recovering from opioid use disorder in jail.Incarcerated people deserve safety, respect and dignity, and state and county officials have an obligation to provide care and honor the rights of the people in their custody. Given the life and death consequences at stake, the state must make swift implementation of this legislation a top priority."

Seep Varma, President, New York Therapeutic Communities, said, "I applaud Governor Hochul on signing this important legislation, so early in her administration signaling the importance addressing the opioid epidemic and demonstrating a commitment to providing access to addiction treatment, prevention and recovery services.  I look forward to working with the Governor to develop strategies and solutions to impact this critical issue, which affects so many New Yorkers."

Allegra Schorr, President of the Coalition of Medication-Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates, said, "COMPA commends Governor Kathy Hochul and the NYS legislature for enacting the opioid overdose bills, Syringe Decriminalization (S2523/A868) and MAT in Prisons and Jails (S1795/A533). Restricted access to medication-assisted treatment threatens the well-being of incarcerated people who face up to 12 times the increased risk of death from drug-related relapses upon release. This legislation ensures that incarcerated people will now have access to MAT, stopping the inhumane treatment that people with an opioid use disorder currently receive while incarcerated. It will reduce preventable fatal drug overdoses and the transmission of infectious diseases."

Tracie Gardner, Legal Action Center's Vice President for Policy Advocacy said, "Legal Action Center commends Governor Hochul for making overdose prevention a key priority of her administration by signing legislation today recognizes the way to solve this continuing overdose epidemic is with a health first approach. In particular, decriminalizing syringe possession provides a critical pathway toward health and recovery for people who use drugs. Further, medications to treat substance use disorder have long been understood to be the standard of care, yet for too long people who are incarcerated have not had access to these medications, which has directly led to an astronomical risk of overdose when people with substance use disorder reenter the community. The legislation that Governor Hochul is signing today will finally ensure access to these medications in prisons and jails throughout the state to aid people in their recovery and reverse this devastating epidemic."

Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance, said, "Today is a leap forward for addressing overdose in New York. For decades, Drug Policy Alliance, VOCAL-NY, and our allies have been fighting to remove criminal penalties for syringes and expand safe syringe access as a public health tool. By signing syringe decriminalization into law, Governor Hochul is correctly prioritizing public health and evidence-based policy over failed draconian drug war logic that has utterly failed to keep New Yorkers safe and has upended countless lives. Governor Hochul is also charting a new way forward by signing the bill to expand access to medications for opioid use disorder for people in jails and prisons across New York. We believe that incarceration is not the solution to a person's problematic drug use, and people who are struggling with drug use should receive medical care. Currently, overdose is one of the leading causes of death for people who have recently been released from incarceration -- this bill moves to address these rampant preventable overdose deaths. Inducting individuals on an appropriate medication for their use disorder is the right step to decrease the risk of fatal overdose and create the potential for long-term recovery from opioid dependency, regardless of whether they are in the community or incarcerated. This bill provides crucial access that has been callously blocked for incarcerated people for too long. We applaud Governor Hochul for taking these long-awaited steps to address preventable overdose deaths and look forward to further swift action as New York grapples with record-high overdose death rates. We can and must shift toward solution-oriented and evidence-based policies to save lives now."

Leaders from VOCAL-NY's Users Union said, "As people who have experienced torturous withdrawal inside jails and prisons, and have been arrested for syringe possession -- we are elated that Governor Hochul has taken this necessary step towards ending the overdose crisis by signing these two bills. But our fight is far from over. Black and Brown New Yorkers continue to face barriers to life saving medication and are criminalized for their drug use at disproportionate rates to those of white New Yorkers. It is our hope that Governor Hochul will make sure that these bills are implemented properly, and continue to lead New York on the path to end the racist and classist war on drugs that fuels our devastating overdose crisis."

Kayla Simpson, Staff Attorney with the Prisoners' Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society said, "For too long, our clients incarcerated in state prisons have been denied access to medications that are widely recognized to be the standard of care for opioid use disorder. This barrier to treatment access has long forced our clients into needless suffering, destabilizing disruptions to their recovery, and serious risk of overdose and death. This legislation is a critical public health measure, allowing doctors to utilize treatment for incarcerated patients that will simply save lives. The Legal Aid Society thanks Senator Jamaal Bailey and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal for their courageous leadership in steering this legislation and we commend Governor Kathy Hochul for signing the bill into law."

Debra Pantin, President and CEO of Outreach said, “Outreach is honored to stand with Governor Hochul and the State Legislature today as she signs this package of bills to meaningfully combat the opioid epidemic. Governor Hochul’s dedication to addressing this crisis predates her seat at the Governor’s Office, as she has consistently met with and listened to families, advocates, partners in the Legislature, and providers like us over the years. Today marks a monumental step in stemming the tide of this epidemic that has only raged harder alongside the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640

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