Policy disagreements continue over how to tackle NY opioid epidemic

A few weeks ago, capital tonight Discussed why advocates are pressuring Gov. Kathy Hochul to declare an addiction public health emergency. Since then, calls for them to do so have grown louder as hundreds of providers, families and members of the Legislature from across the state rallied at the Empire State Plaza on Monday.

capital tonight Asked the Hochul administration about its position on invoking such an emergency. Although spokeswoman Avi Smalls did not directly answer the question, she said the governor is personally familiar with the tragedies behind the pandemic.

As one of the millions of Americans who has lost a loved one to an overdose, Governor Hochul is committed to aggressively tackling the opioid crisis and has invested a historic $2.8 billion in addiction services since taking office Is. Governor Hochul will continue to make smart, responsible investments to address the extraordinary scale of this crisis and provide assistance to those who need it,” Smalls said.

In a separate email statement, Evan Frost, a spokesman for the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), wrote that the agency recognizes we are in the midst of the worst pandemic in history, and is continuing to work with us. Providers and stakeholders have launched a number of initiatives to support individuals, families and communities affected by this crisis.

New York has the resources to deal with the opioid epidemic, but they are being blocked, according to Robert Kent, president of Kent Strategic Advisors, former General Counsel to the Biden Administration White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and former General Counsel to OASAS.

New York has the strongest treatment system in the United States, Kent said capital tonight, But that network of providers is struggling.

According to Kent, providers are unable to hire or retain staff, meaning they can’t safely serve the number of people they are approved to serve.

Kent also questioned why the state was purchasing only one brand of naloxone when, he said, there are now multiple versions of the drug on the market, all approved by the FDA.

But OASAS argued that currently, Narcan is the only FDA-approved naloxone nasal spray for over-the-counter distribution.

OASAS spokesperson Ivan Frost continued:

New York Next offers several formulations, including intramuscular naloxone, through our partnership with Distro. Earlier this year, OASAS launched a new ordering system for New Yorkers to get free naloxone. To date, approximately 70,000 naloxone kits have been ordered through this system, as well as 3.2 million fentanyl test strips and 2.9 million xylazine test strips.

The most significant change Kent is looking for relates to the 30 or so recovery centers in the state that are urging OASAS and Hochul to certify them so the centers can bill for peer services.

Outpatient treatment facilities like Hope House are required to have companions on site, and they may bill Medicaid, Medicare, and other insurance for those companions’ work.

Recovery community centers can’t.

We have nine colleagues on staff, according to Kelly Roe of Second Chance Opportunities, a nonprofit organization in Albany that provides a range of wraparound services to people in recovery. Everyone who walks in our doors is assigned a recovery coach. Everyone in the residence has a recovery coach. Everyone has one on our employment contract. She is a professional cheerleader.

Certification by OASAS will create another revenue source for organizations like Second Chance Opportunities.

When we moved addiction treatment services to Medicaid Managed Care, it opened up the opportunity for licensing to entities like Recovery Community Centers, which would then allow them to bill for services provided by their certified peer recovery advocates, Kent Said, who works with seconds. Possibility opportunity.

In response to the same email capital tonight, OASAS stated that there are avenues by which certified recovery centers can be paid for peer counseling, although certification is not available under current regulation.

There is no current regulation to certify recovery centers. However, recovery centers can now be designated to bill for community-oriented recovery and empowerment (core) services, including peer services for people covered under the Health and Recovery Plan (HARP), said OASAS spokesperson Ivan. Frost has written.

But Kent argues that HARP is a very limited program that only provides services to those most in need who are already engaged in treatment.

OASAS may choose to create a regulation to certify recovery centers, which would open the door to serving more people and saving more lives, he pointed out. capital tonight Via email.

Another recommendation Kent says would be investing in overdose prevention centers (OPCs), also known as safe injection sites, to prevent overdoses.

The Opioid Settlement Board pushed for some settlement cash to fund OPCs, but OSHA refused that recommendation because the centers are illegal under federal law.

Kent responded, saying they ignored federal laws for marijuana! States like Rhode Island are moving forward with OPCs and they are using opioid settlement funds to support the work. If they are challenged with a legal argument that it violates federal law, they will argue that they exercised their police power which is protected by the U.S. Constitution as a devolved power to the states and would likely be subject to any such Will also win the challenge.

The legislative session begins in two weeks.

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