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New York State Takes A Smack At Addressing Heroin Epidemic: Assemblyman Thiele Announces Bills To Address Increasing Problem

For those who only remember rock stars and celebrities dying from overdoses in past decades, remember this horse is not our friendly four-footed steed, and the resurgence of the popularity of this particular drug is killing many. (Photo: www.facebook.com)

The heroin and opiate death toll in New York State continues to rise, and unfortunately Suffolk County is leading in number of deaths for the third straight year.

Recently, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) announced that the Assembly has passed a series of bills which have the support of the Senate and the governor to improve the treatment and prevention of heroin and opioid addiction. Previous efforts included $189 million in this year's state budget for treatment and prevention initiatives as well as safe drug-disposal programs.

According to Thiele, "Heroin addiction is ravaging communities across the state, and it's clear that we need to take action now in order to save lives. These new laws will limit initial painkiller prescriptions and ensure people can get the treatment they need to beat addiction."

In a release, Thiele's office revealed, "The legislation takes steps to combat the heroin crisis by educating doctors as well as individuals who are prescribed opioids to, among other things, advise them of the risks of addiction, and preventing the risk for misuse by limiting the amount of opioids prescribed and further requiring coverage for inpatient care."

Measures are to include "Mandating three hours of education on pain management and palliative care for prescribers to be completed tri-annually; require insurance companies to provide coverage for a minimum of 14 days of inpatient treatment without prior authorization; set a seven-day limit on a patient's first prescription of opioid medication for acute pain; and require pharmacists to provide consumers with educational materials regarding the dangers of addiction and availability of treatment and prescription disposal options when they are dispensing a controlled substance."

Further, the "Legislation also expands access to addiction treatment. One measure increases the maximum time an individual incapacitated by drugs or alcohol can be brought to a treatment facility for detoxification services from 48 to 72 hours and requires those facilities to provide specific information in their discharge planning to help ensure individuals are connected with treatment after they detox. It also requires insurers to provide five days of coverage for withdrawal treatment and eliminates the need for prior authorization by managed care companies for buprenorphine and Vivitrol - drugs used to treat opioid dependence."

An additional piece of legislation, "Will allow social workers and certain other licensed professionals to administer Narcan, a drug which counteracts an opioid overdose, in an emergency. It would also require the state to issue quarterly reports on overdoses and Narcan use, on a county-by-county basis, and require hospitals to implement discharge planning for patients who have, or are at risk for, a substance use disorder."

"In addition, the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) will extend the heroin and opioid addiction wraparound services program for an additional two years and identify best practices for these services. OASAS will also ensure that all utilization review tools used by insurers and providers are consistent with OASAS-defined treatment service levels to help improve substance use disorder treatment and coverage."

The Assemblyman believes the legislation is vital. "It's crucial to have a treatment plan in place for someone who is admitted to the hospital for an overdose so that we can get them on the path to recovery," said Thiele. "We cannot continue to discharge patients who clearly have a substance abuse disorder without providing for further treatment. This plan will ensure those who are struggling with addiction can get the support they need."

For those who only remember rock stars and celebrities dying from overdoses in past decades, remember this horse is not our friendly four-footed steed, and the resurgence of the popularity of this particular drug is killing many. What's the definition of heroin? Here it is: "Heroin and other opiates are powerful pain-killing drugs derived from the opium poppy plant. Most, like Vicodin, OxyContin, and codeine, are manufactured as analgesic pharmaceuticals. The biologically active components of opium are morphine, codeine and papaverine. Morphine is used to produce heroin and other drugs." What damage can it do, however, is almost indefinable and is every citizen's problem to address.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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