ALBANY — Some drug-addiction treatment organizations are opposing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to expand the laws on fentanyl, saying it will increase incarcerations and won’t save lives.
“The governor boasts about giving law enforcement the tools they need to make more arrests, but says nothing about providing people at risk of overdose the tools they need to survive,” Daniel Raymond, of the Harm Reduction Coalition, said Thursday. “We won’t end the overdose crisis by filling up jail cells.”
At issue is a Cuomo proposal to add 11 “analogs” of fentanyl (the drug with some mixtures) to the state’s controlled substances schedule, a change that would increase the number of fentanyl varieties that trigger top felony charges. Cuomo says it would close a loophole that currently allows fentanyl sellers to avoid stiffer sentences.
The Democratic governor offered it as an amendment to his state budget plan, which legislators are supposed to act on by April 1.
In the fall, Suffolk County police officials told Newsday the dealers were using “analogs” as a way to skirt the law because even if caught, they faced softer penalties when selling the derivatives.
But anti-addiction groups counter that tougher penalties won’t reduce overdoses, addiction or even “make people less likely to come in contact with the drug.” Along with the Harm Reduction Coalition, the Drug Policy Alliance and VOCAL-NY are urging state legislators to instead increase access to naloxone, an anti-overdose medication, drug diversion programs and post-overdose counseling.
When making the proposal, the Cuomo administration said fentanyl analogs “have been increasingly found pressed into pill form to resemble name-brand prescription opioids, and in heroin and cocaine being sold in New York State.”