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Opiod crisis demanded quick action, Cuomo says at bill-signing ceremony

The exponential rise in opioid overdoses and deaths demanded quick and comprehensive legislation to combat the problem, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday in Buffalo during a ceremony to sign a bill aimed at addressing the heroin and prescription opioid crisis.

“When a person is ready to go into treatment is a precious moment,” Cuomo said at Evergreen Commons on Georgia Street about the new rules, referring to a plan that will increase inpatient beds and outpatient treatment slots for addiction treatment.

Cuomo characterized the law as a bipartisan agreement that showed that government can work.

“People came together and got the job done,” he said.

The legislation’s measures include:

• A seven-day limit on opioid prescriptions for acute pain. Chronic pain and extreme pain will be exempt from that limit.

• Insurance companies must provide up to 30 days of coverage for opioid prescriptions if necessary.

• They will be required to provide coverage for care relating to addiction treatment and recovery without prior approval.

• Insurers will be required to cover medications prescribed to treat substance abuse.

• Insurance companies also will be required to provide coverage for access to a five-day emergency supply of certain medications.

• Patients will pay one co-payment for the amount of medication they received. Customers of managed care organizations will make a co-payment proportionate to the amount of medication they are given.

• Medication to reverse the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose, like naloxone (Narcan), must be covered by the patient’s insurance.

• Someone who is on the same insurance policy as someone suffering from an addiction, such as a parent or spouse, would be able to be prescribed medication to reverse an overdose.

• Facilities will be able to hold a patient for 72 hours following an overdose instead of 48.

• Prescribers will be required to complete three hours of educational coursework on addiction treatment and pain management every three years.

• Hospitals and pharmacies will be required to give substance abuse education materials to patients who receive medication or care for an addiction.

The changes approved in Albany do not include measures that would strengthen enforcement against drug dealers and cross-state doctor shopping or that would require pharmacies to allow patients to return unused opiates.

The governor also has scheduled visits to Long Island and Staten Island for the bill signing ceremony.

email: citydesk@buffnews.com