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Entering fray, Cuomo unveils initiative to combat heroin's rise in NY

New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks

New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news conference on Monday, June 2, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Stepping into the issue for the first time, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday announced a new initiative to stem the rampant rise of heroin in New York.

The Democrat governor said he would nearly double the number of state troopers assigned to narcotics investigations, supply all first responder units in the state with a heroin-overdose kit and make heroin and opioid awareness a part of every student orientation program at State University of New York and City University of New York campuses.

Cuomo will formally announce his plan today at news conferences in Rockland County and SUNY Old Westbury.

“By nearly doubling the State Police’s drug enforcement units with the addition of more than 100 seasoned investigators we are going above and beyond to combat this deadly drug,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Additionally, providing supplies of naloxone to all first responder units and raising awareness through our SUNY and CUNY campuses will save lives in communities across the State.”

Cuomo joins a bipartisan chorus of legislators calling for action to combat the spread of heroin, which is now one of the most high-profile topics of the final days of the legislative session.

Lawmakers have introduced dozens of bills on the topic, ranging from making naloxone, an overdose antidote, available in every school district to rewriting insurance laws to open up inpatient treatment to converting shuttered state prisons into treatment centers. The state Senate approved 25 bills this week alone on heroin and is negotiating with the Assembly to reach agreements on some proposals before they adjourn on June 19.

The Senate offered its proposals after conducting 18 heroin hearings around the state, drawing more than 2,000 attendees.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a bill that would make it easier for treatment clinics and relatives of addicts to obtain naloxone. The bill is awaiting Cuomo’s signature or veto.

Further, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched a program to supply naloxone to every law enforcement agency in New York.

The investigators will be added to the State Police’s Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, enabling efforts to conduct wider and more sophisticated investigations, the Cuomo administration said.

The SUNY and CUNY awareness campaign not only will include orientation programs but also training dormitory resident assistants and other personnel about the overdose warning signs.

In 2013, there were 89,269 cases of heroin and prescription-opiate treatment admissions across the state -- up from 63,793 in 2004, according to the administration.

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