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New York Assembly Republican task force tackles heroin addiction, rehab, recovery

Detoxification centers are turning away too many heroin addicts, insurance laws don’t allow long enough stays and the state isn’t funding enough recovery centers, according to an Assembly Republican task force report Monday.

“There are so many holes in the [treatment] system, it’s destroying families. It’s destroying individuals,” said Assemb. Alfred Graf (R-Holbrook), one of the task force members. “We have to get serious about this. Detox, rehab treatment – all of these have to work together” to begin addressing New York’s “heroin epidemic.”

Assembly Republicans issued the report after conducting a series of heroin-addiction forums around the state – including one in Huntington last year. Task force members said they heard from young people, parents and grandparents asking them to change state laws to get better treatment for addicts.

“The picture people used to have about heroin addicts – the guy lying in the alley way with a needle in his arm – is not the heroin addict of today,” Graf said.

Among their recommendations, Republicans said the state should raise the Medicaid rate it pays detox centers, detox centers should be required to allow longer than a three-day stay, insurance companies shouldn’t require that addicts “fail first” before covering inpatient treatment, require each county and state prison to have drug-rehab wings and beef up supportive housing opportunities.

Assemb. Gary Finch (R-Aurora) said the state should use a share of the billions of dollars it has received from national banking settlements to increase funding for addiction treatment. Graf said forcing insurance companies to expand treatment would be less expensive in the long term because it could reduce relapses.

Republicans are in the minority in the state Assembly and would need Democratic support to get any of their proposals approved. Task force members said they are seeking bipartisan support.

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