The New York State Senate has passed four bills that sponsors say are part of its ongoing commitment to address the ongoing heroin and opioid crisis.
Last week, the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction released a comprehensive report with recommendations - which includes the bills voted approved Monday - that would help improve prevention efforts, increase access to treatment, expand recovery options and provide greater resources to law enforcement to aid in combating this crisis. In its report, the Task Force identified a four-pronged approach that would stem the growth of the heroin and opioid crisis: prevention, treatment, recovery and enforcement.
Three of the bills passed focus on recovery to provide the proper supports such as safe environments, stable employment and opportunities to participate in diversion programs that avoid incarceration in order to facilitate successful recoveries from addiction. The fourth bill would help prevent the spread of heroin by criminalizing its transportation within New York.
Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer (R-C-I, Amherst) sponsored the bill that expands access to judicial diversion programs. It permits persons otherwise eligible to participate in alcohol or substance abuse treatment diversion programs to utilize programs in the district in which they reside.
Ranzenhofer said the bill will empower courts to allow - at their discretion - an eligible defendant to participate in a diversion program near his or her home, expand the number of defendants who can participate in such programs and increase positive outcomes for these defendants and their families.
“Court diversion programs play an important role, as an effective treatment option, in reducing future criminal activity," said Ranzenhofer. "Ultimately, this new option for courts will lead to more positive outcomes for people with substance abuse issues and their families.”
The bills have been sent to the Assembly.
Assemblymember Jane Corwin (R,I,C-Clarence) urged the Assembly Majority to tackle the epidemic as an urgent “end of session” priority. Citing statistics that show overdose deaths doubled in Erie County last year, Corwin said the Assembly cannot leave town without taking concrete action.
“Heroin and opioids are destroying lives and our communities. These are not drugs that are isolated in the City of Buffalo. They are in our schools and neighborhoods," said Corwin. "As a mother, this is terrifying to me but as a legislator, I am more determined to get Albany to address the epidemic this year.”
Corwin said part of the response must be informing more New Yorkers about the accessibility of heroin and other deadly opioids in suburban and rural communities. She believes the second component must be enacting meaningful legislation that helps prevent addiction, ensures addicts get the help they need and provides support for all those impacted by drug addiction.
“We appropriated $166 million in this year’s budget to tackle the epidemic and each task force’s report will help us decide how best to spend that money to save lives and combat heroin and opioid addiction," said Corwin. "Only one body has yet to take any action and that’s the Assembly Majority."
"It’s unacceptable and I hope they take swift action in the remaining dozen or so days of session," said Corwin. "Lives are literally at stake in Western New York and all across our state."