A public list of doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants registered with New York State’s medical marijuana program has been released on the Health Department website, a move lauded by patients and advocates as a significant step toward the program’s expansion.
Only 32 percent of the state’s estimated 1,000 practitioners consented to being on the list. The recent addition of nurse practitioners and physician assistants has boosted numbers 10 percent, according to the Health Department.
“We are improving access to medical marijuana for patients in need across New York State,” Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said last week in a news release. “As we have said from the very beginning, we will continue to grow this program responsibly and help ease the suffering of those who may benefit from this treatment option.”
As of Monday, there were 18,411 patients in the program, representing 11 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and epilepsy.
Of the 315 practitioners on the public list, 42 are in Nassau and 31 are in Suffolk. The top specialty for consenting Long Island professionals is family practice. Across the state, the top represented specialty is internal medicine, with 64 consenting practitioners.
The contact information includes full names, addresses, phone numbers and medical specialties.
Kate Hintz, a patient advocate for the nonprofit Compassionate Care New York, said Wednesday that the list is already helping patients locate qualified medical help.
“I hope that it sets an example for other physicians to start to be vocal about the program and how it’s helping their patients,” Hintz said, adding that the fight to improve patient access to the program has been challenging for many advocates and those being treated. “Patients started to get really, really vocal about their concerns and illnesses. Now it’s time for doctors to do the same.”
With chronic pain added to the list of qualifying conditions in March, Hintz said there is “real momentum” to also approve post-traumatic stress disorder.
A DOH spokeswoman declined Thursday to comment on any pending legislation.
Following last week’s successful State Assembly vote to include PTSD, the state Senate Health Committee voted 15-1 to pass the bill. It now awaits a full Senate vote.