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Anti-opioid bills get late push in Albany

Advocates Sharon Sieczkowski, Janice Talento and Teri Kroll

Advocates Sharon Sieczkowski, Janice Talento and Teri Kroll with Assemb. Joseph Saladino and state Sen. Michael Venditto to promote insurance coverage for opioid rehabilitation and detoxification in Mineola on Friday, June 10, 2016. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Senate and Assembly Republicans on Friday pressed for legislation they say will help stem Long Island’s heroin and opioid crisis as the end of the state legislative session loomed.

Assemb. Joseph Saladino and Sen. Michael Venditto, both Republicans from Massapequa, argued Friday that time is running out to address the region’s worsening drug epidemic.

“These bills will make a difference in solving this horrific problem of heroin and opioid addiction,” Saladino said at a news conference in Mineola with treatment specialists and the mothers of young men who died of drug overdoses.

Saladino and Venditto have proposed legislation that would force insurance companies to cover 30 days of inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation for addicts, along with up to seven days of detoxification services.

The legislative session is scheduled to end June 16, and neither the Assembly nor the Senate has voted on the proposed legislation.

Many insurance companies will not cover inpatient treatment until an addict has failed during two outpatient treatment attempts, Venditto said.

“This bill would ensure that everybody who has medical insurance gets the treatment that they need,” Venditto said.

The Senate has passed 26 bills this session to address drug prevention, enforcement, treatment and recovery that have yet to clear the Democrat-led Assembly, Venditto said.

The measures would limit initial prescriptions of controlled substances to a five-day supply, extend the time a person can be held involuntarily for a substance abuse disorder in a detox facility from 48 hours to 72 hours and increase criminal penalties for traffickers.

Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), said, “We have a very strong package of bills related to opioids that we plan on taking up.”

A report issued this week by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that Suffolk County had 111 heroin overdose deaths in 2014 and 96 deaths associated with prescription pills — both the highest of any county in the state.

Nassau County recorded 58 heroin deaths and 90 prescription opioid deaths in 2014, the third-highest in both categories.

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