Gov. Hochul signed a bill into law last Thursday that promotes the use of opioid antagonists to combat drug-related deaths and overdoses.
“Addiction can impact any family, suddenly and harshly — those who find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle are there through no fault of their own,” Hochul said in a statement. “This is a personal battle for me and I am proud to be able to combat the opioid crisis by signing these bills into law.”
As lieutenant governor (2015 to 2021), Hochul was responsible for leading the state’s task force on opioid addiction.
“There is no shame in seeking help for substance use and I want to let all New Yorkers know that we are here for you,” she added. “Treatment should always be accessible for those who need it.”
Bill S911/A2354 was co-sponsored by state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) to prevent overdoses by decriminalizing the possession of opioid antagonists, which counted as controlled substances and were used as evidence of illegal possession at trials, hearings and other legal proceedings, according to the senator’s office.
When administered, an opioid antagonist negates or neutralizes in whole or in part the effects of narcotics, according to the bill, based on a definition from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which approved the generic nasal spray naloxone on April 19, 2019.
Naloxone, which is more commonly known by the brand name Narcan, and other opioid antagonists have been in existence since the 1960s and have prevented numerous heroin and opiate overdose-related deaths in emergency situations, according to Sanders’ office.
“Opioid addiction is a scourge on our society — causing great pain and suffering on those addicted, their families and friends,” Sanders said in a statement. “Deaths from opioid overdoses nationwide [were] nearly 50,000 in 2019, according to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. This legislation will lead to less opioid deaths by encouraging people to use medicine that can save lives since using such medicine will not be used as evidence against them in a court of law.”
At hearings and roundtable discussions held by the Assembly, chemical dependence prevention and treatment providers, physicians, drug policy experts and law enforcement cited the importance of the availability of opioid antagonists in preventing overdose-related deaths, according to the senator’s office.
For the second quarter of 2021, the NYPD received 9,736 naloxone kits, according to an Opioid Antagonist Report from the agency. Patrol Borough Queens North has 1,154 of those kits, while Patrol Borough Queens South has 568.
“Opioid antagonists such as naloxone (Narcan) are a vital tool in the fight against the overdose deaths which have devastated New York’s communities during the pandemic and for decades longer,” said Dinowitz, who introduced the companion bill in the Assembly. “Experts, such as drug treatment providers, physicians, law enforcement, and others all believe in the importance of having opioid antagonists available to prevent overdose-related deaths.