Harckham and Senate Colleagues Take Major Steps to Combat the Opioid Crisis

Angela Robertson (mother of Stephen Canastraro Jr., whom “Stephen’s Law” is named for) with Sen. Harckham today at the New York State Senate.

New York State Senator Pete Harckham and his Senate colleagues advanced on Tuesday February 4th, a number of bills that will combat substance misuse and protect New York communities from the scourge of opioid addiction.

Additionally, Harckham and the State Senate Leadership released a report generated by the Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention. The Task Force, of which Harckham was one of three co-chairs, was charged with holding hearings, visiting treatment sites, and speaking with experts and families impacted by Opioid Use Disorder; together, the Task Force used those experiences to guide the Senate Majority on how to best address this crisis. The legislation passed by the State Senate takes into consideration the complexity of the opioid epidemic, and, it is hoped, will provide support to those fighting addiction and health care providers while also expanding government services for people with Substance Abuse Disorder.

“The passage of these important bills addressing the opioid crisis demonstrates that my Senate colleagues and I are taking a multi-faceted approach to saving lives,” said Harckham, chair of the Senate’s Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “Along with Stephen’s Law, which allows certified treatment providers to make emergency contacts for patients, the bills also ensure that certain patients be prescribed an opioid antagonist like naloxone to prevent an overdose, and also be given educational materials and instructions regarding overdose prevention and treatment. We also made it easier for Good Samaritans to administer opioid antagonists in public places without fear of legal liability. These are important steps toward a larger and critical awareness that lives can be saved, and must be saved, with smart, thoughtful policies regarding treating Substance Use Disorder and preventing overdose fatalities.”

Harckham was accompanied on the Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention by two co-chairs: Senator David Carlucci, chair of the Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities; and Senator Gustavo Rivera, chair of the Senate Committee on Health. The bi-partisan, 12-member Task Force conducted hearings, roundtable discussions, and site visits throughout New York State.

 List of Hearings and Roundtables conducted by the Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention:

  • August 9 – Public Hearing, St. Barnabas Hospital, Bronx
  • August 26 – Roundtable, Madison County Office Building, Wampsville
  • September 16 – Roundtable, St. John’s University, Staten Island
  • October 3 – Roundtable, Putnam County Training and Operations Center, Carmel
  • October 3 – Public Hearing, Putnam County Training and Operations Center, Carmel
  • October 15 – Public Hearing, Patchogue Theatre of the Performing Arts, Patchogue
  • October 30 – Roundtable, Catholic Health Medical Center, Buffalo
  • November 15 – Public Hearing, Legislative Office Building, Albany

List of Site Visits conducted by the Senate Joint Task Force on Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention:

  • August 27 – Site Visit, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo
  • August 27 – Site Visit, Neonatal Abstinence Unit, Sisters Hospital, Buffalo
  • August 29 – Site Visit, Overdose Prevention Center, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Center, Toronto
  • October 4 – Site Visit, Russell E. Blaisdell Addiction Treatment Center, Orangeburg 
  • October 30 – Site Visit, Niagara County Jail, Lockport
  • November 21 – Site Visit, Interborough Development and Consultation Center, Brooklyn

In addition to generating a report, the work undertaken by the Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention helped identify ways state government would be better able to combat the opioid crisis and help New Yorkers who are dealing with Substance Use Disorder. The legislation passed by the Senate today includes several bills sponsored by Harckham:

Opioid Prescribing

  •          Opioid Antagonist Prescription: S.5150-B will require prescribers to co-prescribe an opioid antagonist with the first opioid prescription of the year to combat accidental overdoses.

Access to Overdose Reversal Medications

  • Take-Home Opioid Antagonist: S.6650 will require individuals diagnosed with an opioid use disorder who are discharged from treatment facilities, state prisons, and hospitals to be provided with an overdose reversal drug (such as naloxone) prior to discharge.
  • Access to Life Insurance Coverage: S.3159-A will prohibit insurers from denying life insurance to, or otherwise discriminating against, individuals who are prescribed an overdose reversal drug (such as naloxone), as many nurses and health care providers carry this lifesaving drug without a specific patient prescription.
  • Use of Opioid Antagonist by Public Accommodations: S.5457 will expand the list of entities authorized to possess, distribute, and administer an overdose reversal drug (such as naloxone) to include public accommodations, such as restaurants and bars.

Ensuring Access to Evidence-Based, Person-Centered Treatment

  •           “Stephen’s Law”: S.4741-B will require treatment programs to notify patients of their right to identify emergency contacts and require OASAS to develop guidelines for protocols to be used by treatment programs in communicating with these contacts.

“The opioid crisis has destroyed lives and devastated communities throughout our state,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “The Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention has worked tirelessly holding hearings, coordinating with experts, and helping develop legislation to address this crisis. I thank Senators Carlucci, Harckham, and Rivera, for co-chairing this task force, and I commend all of the task force members and bill sponsors for their hard work generating this report and advancing this legislation. The Senate Majority will continue our fight to protect New York communities and New Yorkers’ health.”

Senator Harckham spoke at a news conference today on the passage of the opioid legislation. (Here is a link to a video of his speech, or visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch 


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