Editorial: Serious bills could slow the heroin epidemic
An ambitious package of bills taking aim at the heroin epidemic passed the State Senate on Monday, but that chamber's scattershot approach could run into problems in the Assembly.
The goal of the 23 bills is to prevent abuse and overdose, expand treatment and strengthen law enforcement. The comprehensive legislation grew out of 18 public hearings around the state led by Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Central Islip), chairman of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. The bills won bipartisan support in the Senate.
But pragmatism should be the watchword in negotiations with the Assembly's Democratic majority, which is crafting its own plan. With 366 deaths on Long Island attributed to opiates in 2011, the focus ought to be on bills that would have the greatest impact, and that can actually win enough votes in the current session to become law.
High on that list of keepers is a bill to speed the resolution of disputes with insurers over coverage for drug treatment that would allow care to continue while an appeal is pending. Also key is a bill to let parents petition juvenile courts to require a minor child to undergo treatment. Another would clear the way for schools to administer the Narcan antidote for overdoses and use Good Samaritan laws to shield those who do from lawsuits.
Also important is limiting opioids prescribed for acute pain to a 10-day supply, with some obvious exceptions, such as cancer and palliative care, to reduce the risk of diversion.
What Republicans shouldn't do is insist on tough-on-crime measures likely to stall in the Assembly. For example, creating a homicide charge for selling an opioid that causes a death, or classifying three people who sell drugs worth $25,000 in a year as major traffickers. This sounds like election year tough-on-crime rhetoric that won't do much to address the scourge.
In the urgent battle against heroin, the legislature should concentrate on what's doable.