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Press Release

September 28, 2017

Contact: Richard Loconte, 212-709-1691

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES AGGRESSIVE NEW ACTIONS TO COMBAT THE FENTANYL CRISIS

Governor Will Advance Legislation to Add 11 Types of Fentanyl to Controlled Substance List, Allowing Law Enforcement to Crack Down on Dealers and Combat Emerging New Drugs

Governor Directs DFS to Take Immediate Action to Advise Insurers Against Placing Arbitrary Limits on Coverage for Overdose Reversal Drugs

View DFS Circular Letter Here

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a series of aggressive new actions to combat the fentanyl crisis in communities across New York State. The Governor will advance legislation to add 11 fentanyl analogs to the state controlled substances schedule, giving law enforcement the ability to go after the dealers who manufacture and sell. To further protect New Yorkers, the Governor is also directing the New York State Department of Financial Services to take immediate action to Advise Insurers Against placing arbitrary limits on the number of naloxone doses covered by an insurance plan. As fentanyl can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and it can take multiple doses of naloxone to reverse a fentanyl overdose, this new measure will ensure access to adequate doses of overdose reversal medication and save lives.

"Drug dealers and trafficking organizations are flooding our streets with addictive, deadly drugs that devastate families and destroy lives in communities across our state, and we must take bold action to close loopholes and hold these criminals responsible," Governor Cuomo said. "I'm calling on the Legislature to ban these new types of fentanyl and equip law enforcement with tools to go after these dangerous dealers to stop this scourge on our communities, and help build a safer, stronger New York for all."

In New York State, overdose deaths involving opioids increased nearly 35 percent between 2015 and 2016. However, fentanyl-related deaths increased at a much higher rate—nearly 160 percent statewide. Fentanyl-related deaths in New York City increased by more than 310 percent, while fentanyl-related deaths in counties outside of New York City increased by more than 110 percent.

Over the past few years, fentanyl analogs have been increasingly found in heroin and cocaine sold in New York State. They are also being pressed into pill form to resemble name-brand prescription opioids. Fentanyl analogs vary in potency, but can be 100 times stronger than morphine. Just three milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal, compared to 30 milligrams of heroin. Heroin and cocaine containing deadly concentrations of these synthetic opioids have been increasingly present in communities throughout New York State.

To combat the fentanyl crisis, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to close a glaring loophole in state law and add the following 11 fentanyl analogs to Schedule I of the controlled substance schedules of New York State Public Health Law §3306: AH-7921; Acetyl Fentanyl; ButyrylFentanyl; Beta-Hydroxythiofentanyl; Furanyl Fentanyl; U-47700; and Acryl Fentanyl (or Acryloylfentanyl); N-(4-fluorophenyl)-N-(1-phenethylpiperidin-4-yl)isobutyramide; Ortho-Fluorofentanyl; Tetrahydrofuranyl Fentanyl; Methoxyacetyl Fentanyl. The 11 substances are already listed on the federal schedule of controlled substances. The legislation will also give the New York State Health Commissioner the authority to add to the state controlled substances schedule any new drugs that have been added to the federal schedule.

As just .25 milligrams of fentanyl, or about the size of a head of a pin, can potentially result in death, the state is taking new measures to stop the scourge of this dangerous drug. Over the past three years across the country, deaths from synthetic drugs like fentanyl, have sky-rocketed more than 500 percent. At the Governor's direction, DFS will take immediate action to prevent insurers from placing arbitrary limits on coverage for overdose reversal drugs, and ensure New Yorkers have access to adequate doses of life-saving naloxone.

In New York State, a preliminary analysis conducted by the Department of Health identified more than 2,900 opioid-related deaths among state residents in 2016. At the same time, fentanyl-related deaths among residents increased at a much higher rate—nearly 160 percent statewide.

On Long Island, overdose deaths involving opioids increased 27 percent between 2015 and 2016. A preliminary analysis conducted by the Department of Health identified more than 480 opioid-related deaths among residents across the region in 2016. However, fentanyl-related deaths among residents in Long Island increased at a much higher rate—nearly 175 percent.

Fentanyl proper is a Schedule II synthetic opiate, with medical uses as a painkiller, an anesthetic, and in palliative care. Fentanyl's listing as a Schedule II controlled substance, available by prescription only, makes it a felony to sell on the street and a crime to use the opiate without a prescription. In response, underground labs have tweaked the molecular structure of fentanyl to create new, unregulated chemicals referred to as fentanyl analogs. These deadly cousins are chemically similar to fentanyl—and often many times more potent—but are not listed on New York State's schedule of controlled substances, and therefore not subject to the same criminal penalties.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Co-Chair of the Heroin and Opioid Task Force, said, "New York is taking aggressive steps to address the opioid epidemic which is wreaking havoc on our communities and showing us that addiction knows no bounds. Opioids and the over-prescription of dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl have cost our state too many young lives. The Governor's multi-faceted plan of action will help get these deadly drugs off our streets and help people access lifesaving treatment."

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Fentanyl and its synthetic analogs are extremely dangerous substances that have no place in New York outside of fentanyl's controlled medical use and I commend Governor Cuomo for these bold actions and his continued leadership on fighting the opioid epidemic. We have lost too many New Yorkers to these deadly substances, and it is imperative for the legislature to act to protect New Yorkers struggling with addiction and penalize those who distribute these lethal substances."

New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "Fentanyl and its analogs are killing people across New York State and the country, and the more people know about its danger, the better. Governor Cuomo's efforts announced today will save lives."

State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, "Our members have firsthand experience with overdose deaths caused by fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, which dealers often mix with heroin to increase its potency. These actions will help us hold these dealers accountable, and educate the public about the dangers of these deadly drugs."

Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said, "New York is leading the charge to end the opioid epidemic, and Naloxone is a crucial tool in the fight to prevent unnecessary overdose deaths. DFS is proud to support the Governor's efforts with the guidance we are issuing to insurers today, which will help save lives and make progress toward ending this crisis."

Senator John E. Brooks said, "I appreciate Governor Cuomo's continued efforts to address this problem in both a meaningful and aggressive way. In the 8th Senatorial District we have a work group with representatives from all our communities providing programs and support. Working together we will win the war."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, "Today Governor Cuomo is leading the effort to confront one of the biggest challenges of our time. The scourge of opioid addiction is destroying lives and devastating communities across Long Island and all across the country. Meanwhile, a new synthetic drug, fentanyl, has exacerbated the epidemic and increased the death toll. I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking new action to stop the spread of fentanyl and protect our communities.

Governor Cuomo is taking common sense action to stop the spread of fentanyl. This measure will equip law enforcement to go after the dealers and manufacturers of this deadly substance and ensure our officers are empowered to stop the spread of fentanyl. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership, and look forward to continuing to work with him to bring an end to this epidemic.

Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer said, Fentanyl represents a dangerous new front in the devastating opioid crisis, and I am grateful that Governor Cuomo recognizes this challenge and is stepping up to address it head on. The Governor's multi-pronged effort to stop the spread of fentanyl will literally save lives. So I want to thank Governor Cuomo for spearheading this effort and making a difference here and all across the state.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker said, "The opioid crisis is an vicious epidemic that has truly devastating impacts on the individuals and families it touches. Awareness and education are two of the strongest tools we have to fight this plague. With these new actions, Governor Cuomo is taking a major step in combatting the crisis that drugs like fentanyl can have on New Yorkers, and I thank him for taking swift and aggressive action against this scourge that has spread like wildfire across the state."

The Governor's call for legislative action builds upon New York's multi-faceted strategy to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic. In April of this year, the Governor signed historic legislation investing over $200 million to address the epidemic through a comprehensive approach targeting each component of heroin and opioid addition- prevention, treatment, and recovery. These investments included:

  • $145 million for community-based providers
  • $65 million for 8,000 residential treatment beds
  • $9 million for housing units
  • $41 million for opioid treatment programs
  • $21 million for outpatient services
  • $9 million for crisis/detox programs
  • $27 million for state-operated addiction treatment centers
  • $6 million for naloxone kits and training
  • $25 million for expanded programs, including family support navigators, peer engagement and 24/7 urgent access centers

Over the past three years, Governor Cuomo has put into place expansive new policies to fight heroin and opioid addiction, including:

  • Limiting initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain from 30 to 7 days
  • Expanding insurance coverage for substance use disorder treatment
  • Increasing access and enhancing treatment capacity across the state, including a major expansion of opioid treatment and recovery services
  • Implementing the comprehensive I-STOP law to curb prescription drug abuse
  • Launching a public awareness and prevention campaign to inform New Yorkers about the dangers of heroin use and opioid misuse and the disease of addiction
  • Assembling a task force to propose initiatives to tackle the heroin and opioid epidemic

New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).

Available addiction treatment including crisis/detox, inpatient, community residence, or outpatient care can be found using the new and improved NYS OASAS Treatment Availability Dashboard at FindAddictionTreatment.ny.gov or through the Access Treatment page on the NYS OASAS website. Visit the #CombatAddiction website at oasas.ny.gov/CombatAddiction to learn more about how you can help to #CombatAddiction in your community.

Visit www.combatheroin.ny.gov for more information on addressing heroin and prescription opioid abuse, including a Kitchen Table Tool Kit to help start the conversation about the warning signs of addiction and where to get help. For tools to use in talking to a young person about preventing alcohol or drug use, visit the State's Talk2Prevent website.

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