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Drug Treatment Expert Applauds NYS Proposal to Go After Synthetic Fentanyl

A drug treatment expert is praising Governor Cuomo’s proposal to ban a synthetic Opioid derived from Fentanyl that is adding to the Opioid crisis. 

The Governor’s plan aims to expand access to Medication Assisted Treatment or MAT, and treat synthetic Fentanyl as a controlled substance, making it illegal and easier for law enforcement to fight.  

Ann-Marie Foster is president of Phoenix House New York, which is one of the state’s largest providers of in- and out-patient drug treatment.  She says the measure would close a legal loophole.

“A drug dealer caught with these analogs, prior to mixing them with heroin or cocaine, could escape prosecution … because it was not on the state registry.  So making them illegal to prevent them from being mixed with other psycho-active substances, especially heroin, should greatly reduce the rate of overdose deaths in the state.”

Synthetic fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and it can be fatal when taken or when mixed with other drugs.

The other part of Cuomo’s proposal is to increase the availability of medication to treat addiction, to emergency room referrals, telemedicine and other avenues.  Foster says MAT is an opportunity to provide medications to help patients with their addiction.

“We can’t let up because the number of individuals suffering from addiction is still high and the number attempting to overdose is still high.  What we want to see is more Narcan (naloxone overdose treatment), more prevention training.  The state has done a great job in pushing that effort.”

The Governor’s proposal would expand treatment in hard to reach communities.  If the bill is approved next year, law enforcement would also have the authority to prosecute the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of a range of synthetic variations of fentanyl.  The proposal on fighting aspects of the opioid crisis is expected to be part of Governor Cuomo's State of the State address in January.

Actions proposed to expand access to medication assisted treatment:

  • Expansion of the Medication Assisted Treatment and Emergency Referrals (MATTERS) Program: Governor Cuomo proposes expanding a pilot that provides MAT to patients identified with Opioid Use Disorder in Emergency Departments. These individuals will rapidly be transitioned into long-term treatment at a community clinic of their own choosing, all within 24-48 hours.
  • MAT Telemedicine Program: The Governor proposes improving access to MAT by connecting emergency departments with doctors who can prescribe buprenorphine through telehealth.
  • Expanding Access to Telehealth and Mobile Clinics: The Governor will direct OASAS to continue to expand access to these resources in underserved communities across the state by adding 10 new mobile clinics, one in each economic development zone statewide. In addition, in order to ensure access to addiction treatment in every region of the state, the Governor will direct OASAS to develop telehealth capacity by funding equipment for at least one addiction treatment program in each county across the state. 
  • Expanding Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Correctional Settings: Governor Cuomo will direct DOCCS to expand access to Medication-Assisted Treatment by providing buprenorphine in the 7 facilities currently offering methadone. In addition, the Governor will direct DOCCS to seek national certification and accreditation to operate an Opioid Treatment Program, creating the Nation's first state corrections-operated OTP in the country.
Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.