Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday signed into law measures aimed at curbing the heroin and opioid epidemic in Nassau and Suffolk counties and across the state.
The laws passed at the end of the legislative session earlier this month expand access to insurance for recovering addicts and limit the supply of opioid prescriptions to seven days, down from 30.
“It’s a crisis where the numbers are frightening,” Cuomo said at a ceremonial bill signing at Farmingdale State College. “Nothing we have done so far has made a difference.”
Cuomo said that while the opioid and heroin epidemic has affected the entire state, Nassau and Suffolk were among the hardest hit of the state’s 62 counties.
Suffolk reported the greatest number of opioid overdoses statewide. Nassau and Suffolk reported a combined 319 opioid-related deaths in 2014, up from 88 related deaths in 2003, Cuomo said.
State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said, “This is a plague and a scourge that affects every single family, every single day, no matter what we try to do.”
The laws eliminate the requirement that addicts receive an insurer’s approval before they can receive emergency medications. Insurance companies are required to cover the costs of naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of an overdose.
The legislation also requires physicians and pharmacists to meet education requirements on the risk of heroin and opioids. It expands services for recovery, adding 270 treatment beds to state facilities. Families can request that an addict be treated on an emergency basis for 72 hours, up from a 48-hour limit.
Under the new law, the state commissioner of health must report four times a year on the number of overdoses by county and how often overdose-reversal medication is administered.
Jeffrey Reynolds, a member of Cuomo’s statewide heroin task force and president and chief executive of the nonprofit Family and Children’s Association in Mineola, said past laws had cracked down on the supply of the drugs.
But the new legislation “will help reduce demand by making treatment more accessible,” Reynolds said. “Making treatment-on-demand a reality is key to ending this entire crisis.”