State of the State: Governor Cuomo talks about his proposal to ban fentanyl and additional census funding


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks about his proposal to ban fentanyl and synthetic fentanyl derivatives. He also talks about making additional funds available to make sure all New Yorkers are counted in the census.

Cuomo would ban fentanyl and similar opioids as a countermeasure to the destructive addiction epidemic. Criminal sale or possession of illegalized fentanyl analogs would receive the same treatment as trafficking in other controlled and banned substances.

For the first time in 10 years, the fight against opioid addiction in New York has seen a general decrease in the overall number of hospitalizations and deaths by overdose, down 13.46% and 7.1% in 2018, respectively. Nonetheless, fentanyl-related deaths have dramatically increased. Among New Yorkers outside of New York City, overdoses from fentanyl and its analogs increased by 124% in 2016, and by another 28% in 2017.

A lethal synthetic opioid up to 10 times as potent as heroin and 100 times as potent as morphine, fentanyl can be fatal at only 3 milligrams. Even those analogs prohibited federally are not listed in the state government’s controlled substances schedule. This technicality means selling fentanyl or unscheduled analogs is legal unless mixed with a banned substance.

According to Cuomo, subjecting fentanyl to the same criminal sale or possession penalties as other controlled substances, illicit use will decrease. Closing prevention loopholes lets law enforcement arrest drug dealers and prosecute manufacturers and distributors.

Cuomo-backed legislation would give the state health commissioner the discretion to proactively ban new and emerging fentanyl-type drugs. As an alternative to prescribing fentanyl, Cuomo and addiction experts suggest prescribing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid abuse for at-risk individuals and increasing availability hard to reach communities.

Potential legislation would support treatment services for those who may not engage in care because of transportation issues, insurance problems, or other limitations. Cuomo champions a multi-pronged approach to support MAT, which combines medication, education, and counseling. Increasing access to MAT involves increasing where and when it can be prescribed, and by whom.

Connecting emergency departments to doctors who prescribe drugs treating addiction through telehealth improves access, as does adding mobile clinics and treatment programs in correctional facilities and underserved communities. In Medication Assisted Treatment and Emergency Referrals (MATTERS), a convenient pilot program providing MAT to opioid abusers, patients swiftly transition to long-term care at a chosen community clinic within two days.

Hospitals statewide have developed protocols based on MAT standards for emergency departments, and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports continues to offer MAT via growing telehealth care delivery and added mobile clinics. The overdose-reversing drug naloxone has also gained widespread use. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision would also update their protocols to offer buprenorphine instead of methadone for addiction, and seek certification and accreditation to create the first state corrections-operated opioid treatment program in the U.S.

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