Comprehensive Legislative Package Limits Opioid Prescriptions from 30 to 7 Days, Requires Mandatory Prescriber Education on Pain Management to Stem the Tide of Addiction, Eliminates Burdensome Insurance Barriers to Treatment
Expands Supports for New Yorkers in Recovery, Increases Treatment Beds by 270 and Adds 2,335 Program Slots for Substance Use Disorder in New York
Earlier today, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to combat the heroin and opioid crisis in New York State in Farmingdale. The comprehensive package of bills was passed as part of the 2016 Legislative Session and marks a major step forward in the fight to increase access to treatment, expand community prevention strategies, and limit the over-prescription of opioids in New York. More information is available here.
Long Island was the second stop on the Governor’s statewide tour to sign the sweeping legislation today. He hosted an event in Buffalo earlier. Video, photos and transcripts of that event are available here. Governor Cuomo will host an event in Staten Island later today. Video, photos and transcripts of that event will follow.
VIDEO of the Governor’s remarks and signing the legislation is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264, mp4) format here.
AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page shortly.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is below.
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Good afternoon to all of you. Pleasure to be back on Long Island with so many friends on an issue that has been a long time coming for government and society to address this issue. So let me begin by congratulating everybody in this room because this was a long, hard road, but we came out at a good place.
First, to my colleagues in the legislature – they are all in a good mood because they are out of Albany. That is what this is today, you see a certain giddiness among them. The legislative session goes from January to June basically. And then after June, we just finished the session so people are back home. Senator Flanagan is the leader for the Senate so he bears responsibility. And I found a peculiar but a very effective way to get Senator Flanagan to shorten the session, because the shorter the session, the faster we get done, the better for me. What I started doing towards the end was mandatory daily meetings with me if you wanted to stay in Albany. And Senator Flanagan, because that’s worse than any punishment you could come up with – three hours a day with me –Senator Flanagan miraculously came up with a global resolution, wrapped up the whole session. We ended on time, and we had one of the best sessions in history. Let’s give Senator Flanagan a big round of applause.
Assemblyman Lavine and members of the Assembly, pleasure to be with you. Your County Executive Ed Mangano and his better half Linda Mangano, who spoke to me about this issue about a year ago and said, – and she was exactly right – “It’s growing, it’s getting worse, it’s getting worse, we have to do something, we have to do something together.” She was exactly right. Linda Mangano, thank you very much.
Now we had a good legislative session. We got a lot of good things done. We really did. We passed something called paid family leave. The best paid family leave policy in America exists right here in the state of New York, which will allow people to spend time at home when they have a child or when they have an illness. More money for education than ever before in the history of the state of New York, $25 billion. First state in the nation to mandate that schools test their water for lead. That’s the great state of New York. We’re doing something about what we call “zombie properties.” Zombie properties are those homes that are somewhere between foreclosure by the bank and ownership and they deteriorate and they take down a whole community. We passed legislation that expedites the disposition of zombie homes. So we did a lot of good work.
We also – here is something you can always win a bet on. The state of New York cut taxes for the middle class – people up to $300,000 so it is a very wide middle class – cut taxes to the lowest rate in 70 years, believe it or not. That is what we did in Albany. And you can always win a bet on that because nobody really believes that government cuts taxes. You know, it is one of those things that people just don’t think is possible. It is like an amicable divorce, you know. It can’t happen. Otherwise you wouldn’t be getting a divorce if it was amicable. But we actually cut taxes. So we did a lot of great work.
But I think the piece of legislation that is going to affect the most people is what we have done here on heroin and opioid overdose. It is a crisis. It is a crisis in this state. It is a crisis in this country. It is a crisis where the numbers are frightening. Suffolk County led the state in the number of opiate overdoses. Out of 62 counties, Suffolk County was number one. Nassau and Suffolk, 88 opioid related deaths in 2003. 2014, 319. The numbers are increasing exponentially. And nothing that we have done thus far had made a difference. 85,000 people hospitalized with opioid overdoses. And if it was not for Narcan, we would have lost even more lives.
So the numbers are frightening. In the state it is not as bad as it is on Long Island, where the numbers are actually worse, but it is bad all throughout the state. And in truth, kudos to the Senate. The Senate raised this issue very early on. Senator Flanagan raised this issue very early on. Being from Long Island he knew it first-hand. Senator Terrance Murphy and Senator Phil Boyle were on a task force that went all across the state working on this, members of the Assembly, they came up with a really intelligent plan and that is the plan that we are enacting into legislation with the appropriate funding. So, let’s give them a round of applause for the good work they did.
I’d also like to say to Mr. Rizzuto’s point, the energy when you saw the hearings of the Task Force, the energy in this issue came from a number of sources. It came from the health care community. It came from people who worked in substance abuse. But I think the energy and the power, most of all, came from parents who had lost a child. Mr. Rizzuto was going through the names, but Claudia Friszell and Linda Ventura and Susan Salamone and Terri Kroll and Lori Carbonaro and Paulette Phillippe, Dale and Beth Riedel, Dorothy Johnson, Tracy Judd, Victoria Friszell – to take the pain of losing a child, which must be, I can’t even imagine that pain because it is unnatural. We have loss in life. We lose parents, we lose brothers, we lose sisters, but there’s a cycle to life. It is unnatural to lose a child. Parents don’t bury children and I have such respect for parents who went through that situation and took the pain and brought it to a positive place and took the pain and said, “I’m going to do something good with this and I’m going to make sure other people don’t go through what I went through.” What a testament to their integrity and their character and that’s what drove this movement and we should thank them.
The legislation we passed is comprehensive and addresses both the parts of the addiction itself, creating the addiction and treatment. First step had us deal with the insurance companies because the insurance companies are in the business of proving health care. I was the Attorney General before I was Governor and I had a lot of interactions with the insurance companies which means I sued them a lot. Those are the interactions you have when you’re an Attorney General. Why? Because they are in the business of providing health care. If they don’t have to pay for a service, they don’t want to pay for service. If they don’t have to pay for coverage, they don’t want to pay for coverage. So one of the initial problems is you have a person who has overdosed on heroin. They’re in a critical position. You call the insurance company and say, “I want them to get treatment,” and the insurance company says, “Well, hold on not so fast. We have to approve it first. We have to have our professional look. I want to look at the records. We want to get a second opinion. We want to get a doctor.” And you don’t have that luxury when you have a person in crisis. That person needs treatment, they need it today. They don’t need it in a week. So, in our law, we passed a first in the nation, the decision whether or not a person will require treatment will not be made by the insurance company in New York State. It will be made by a doctor. And we have a medical protocol that will be answered by a physician and if that person meets the criteria, as established by a pure medical protocol, they will get treatment immediately, whether or not the insurance company likes it. Period.
Second, by the current law, a parent can only have an institution hold a child against their will if that child is over eighteen for 48 hours. Now this is a delicate balance because over eighteen, you have civil rights, you have civil liberties – on the other hand, you have parents at their wit’s end who are afraid if their child isn’t in a facility, the child is going to hurt themselves. And we’ve increased the forty eight hours involuntary holding to seventy two hours which is what the medical professionals say is the legitimate amount of time.
Third, we have a prescription mania in this society. We have doctors who are prescribing opioids and overprescribing opioids with a frequency that is alarming. My 20 year old daughter came back from getting her tonsils taken out – a thirty day supply of opioids. Why would you give a twenty year old a thirty day supply? If you took the thirty day supply you may very well be on your way to a problem at the end of thirty days, or you have a thirty day supply, which is very valuable and can be sold on the street. There was never a reason for it. And I’ve always been, frankly, somewhat critical of the relationship between the medical community and the pharmaceutical community. It’s a little too cozy for my taste. This law says: there is no thirty day prescription, a doctor cannot write more than a seven day prescription and refill it if you have to.
And the fourth main element is: we didn’t have enough treatment beds in this state. And if a person is ready to go into treatment, they have to go into treatment in that moment. Mandatory treatment, forced treatment doesn’t work. They have to want to go, they have to understand that they need to make those changes. But when they are there, when they are at the bottom and ready to go in – you have to get them in, literally, in that moment, you literally have to seize the moment. You have situations now where you’ll have a person who’s ready to go into treatment, you call the treatment facility and they say “call back in a month, maybe we’ll have a bed.” It doesn’t work that way, the person may be gone in a month. We need more treatment capacity, this bill funds twenty five hundred more slots statewide so we’re going to have the treatment capacity we need.
And let me say this: the best test of government, in my opinion, is how government responds to a crisis. Because that’s really when you need government, right? What is government? Government is we. Government is the vehicle that gets things done that you can’t get done for yourself. And how government responds to a crisis is the telltale sign. Whether its terrorism, whether it’s a snowstorm, whether its 9/11, whatever it is – how government responds. And we have a crisis with heroin.
And I have to tell you, that this legislature came together, they worked together the assembly and the senate, there was no “I’m a Democrat, I’m a Republican,” there was no partisanship, there was no pride of authorship, they came together, they went around the state, they wrote a really remarkably intelligent report -- The White House just said they want to use our state’s model as a national model to show other states. And the credit goes to the Senate and the Assembly for getting this legislation done. I’m proud of what they did. It’s not going to be solved by Government alone. It is going to take all of us: it’s going to take the law enforcement community and the police and the educators, parents, citizens, neighbors, family. But now we have the tools on the table to make a real difference. We don’t have to lose any more lives. Let’s come together, let’s solve this problem, let’s save our young people. Thank you, god bless you, let’s sign the bill.