On July 12th, seven senators from all over New York State gathered in downtown Buffalo for the "Heroin and Opioid Addiction New York State Task Force Senate Hearing." Honorable New York Senators Akshar, Amedore, Gallivan, Jacobs, Kennedy, Ortt, and Ranzenhofer were present to hear from twelve different panelists who gave their testimony on the epidemic.
Many of the panelists asked for medical assistance from the Senators: Increasing insurance coverage for medication-assisted treatment, providing medication-assisted treatment in criminal justice settings including jails and prisons, removing barriers to accessing Methadone and Buprenorphine, and maximizing access to the higher dosage of naloxone (Adapt.)
Specific concerns explained by panelist Avi Israel (representing Save the Michaels,) included the need for a standard overdose protocol in hospitals so that individuals are not sent home once their pulse and respiration return to normal. Overburdened emergency departments are currently choosing which patients to admit and which can leave the ER. Avi advocates that these patients should also be given the choice of receiving medically-assisted treatment in the ER, and also given the option of a bed-to-bed transfer into a treatment facility.
Avi also explained: "In NYS, only one of 14 people get access to treatment. That’s not MY figure, that comes from OASAS statistics. Insurance companies are still denying treatment to people, even though we have laws that say they can’t. There are many loopholes that they can use. It is the insurance company that dictates IF you need treatment, what KIND of treatment, and HOW LONG you can stay in treatment. It is the insurance company who subsidizes so many people into addiction by paying for their prescriptions, but then when it is time to help them OUT of addiction, suddenly the door closes after 14 or 28 days."
Avi also spoke about treatment centers
taking a firm but more inclusive approach to their patients, when reviewing patient behavior that currently would require removal from residential treatment centers. Avi advocates that if a patient breaks a rule and sneaks a cigarette, the facility should teach responsibility by having the individual's smoking privileges revoked for a short period of time, instead of removing them from the facility. Avi contends that being more flexible to the choices patients make in treatment facilities might be the difference between recovery and return to active use.