Governor creates heroin/opioid task force

May 11, 2016


Governor Andrew Cuomo has appointed a task force aimed at ending what he called a crisis of heroin and opioid addiction continuing to plague families and communities in New York. At the same time, his Attorney General is urging those who have been denied health insurance coverage for addiction treatment and mental illness to contact his office for help.

The addiction task force is chaired by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, commissioner of the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.  The other 21 members include representatives of health care, drug treatment, advocacy, law enforcement and education.

They are expected to hold public listening sessions and develop a statewide coordinated plan. 

State efforts so far include expanding insurance coverage for treatment and a law requiring drug prescribers to consult a state database to check patient prescription histories. Officials credit that for a 90 percent decrease in "doctor shoppers" seeking multiple opioid prescriptions.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also reminded New Yorkers that the state's 2006 mental health parity law requires insurers to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders at least equal to their coverage for other health conditions.

He said state insurance law also requires coverage consistent with the 2008 federal law that prohibits greater financial requirements and treatment limitations for mental health than on medical or surgical benefits.

New Yorkers facing barriers to coverage are asked to call his office at 1-800-428-9071.  Over the past two years, the office has signed agreements with Cigna, MVP, EmblemHealth, ValueOptions/Beacon, and Excellus intended to bring them into compliance with the laws.