New heroin laws will save lives (editorial)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to Staten Island the other day to put his personal stamp on our battle against prescription pill and heroin addiction by signing a package of laws aimed at eradicating the scourge.
To show you the depth of the problem we have here, that was just one of Cuomo's stops on Wednesday. He did similar bill-signing ceremonies in Buffalo and on Long Island.
In other words, we've got a problem in America. But we all knew that. And lawmakers have responded.
One bill signed by Cuomo limits opioid prescriptions to seven-day supplies, down from the 30-day supple that is often prescribed. It's a smart move, and one that in retrospect seems long overdue.
Why give a month's supply of painkillers to someone who may not need them? It will only encourage people to think that they have to finish the whole prescription. And, unfortunately, that could be enough to get somebody hooked.
The legislation also adds 270 treatment beds and 2,335 program slots for substance abuse treatment statewide. Who can argue with that? Those who want to get clean should have the opportunity to do so. They shouldn't be turned away for lack of beds.
The new bills also look to overcome insurance company barriers to treatment by allowing patients to begin treatment before their insurance company authorizes it.
This too makes sense. When somebody wants to get clean, there shouldn't be any bureaucratic barriers in the way. We must strike while the iron is hot. When somebody is ready to go into treatment, we should get them into treatment before they change their minds.
As Cuomo rightly said of the package of laws, "I believe this will literally save lives."
And the bill-signing also gave us a reminder of why this generation's fight against heroin has been different from those in the past. A mom, Ann Marie Perrotto, shared the story of losing her son, Christopher, 22, to addiction.
She is one of many, many parents we've heard from in recent years who have shared their sad stories. That has helped keep the anti-opioid fight at the forefront of a lot of people's minds. Whatever progress we are making against the scourge is due in part to them.
Add to these bills the millions of dollars that the city has allocated to the fight, including funding for District Attorney Michael McMahon's office, and you can see that the battle has been joined.
But there are other components to the fight that we also have to pay attention to: Stopping people from getting their hands on the drugs in the first place, and discouraging people from getting hooked.
Our country has been flooded with heroin in recent years, thanks in large part to Mexican cartels who correctly read the market and saw that there was a vacuum to be filled once the I-STOP initiative helped dry up the prescription-pill supply.
So keeping that heroin from getting into the country is also something we need to look at. Never mind illegal immigration, there's no better reason to beef up security at our border than stopping drugs.
Another thing we need to keep focusing on is prevention, keeping folks from getting hooked in the first place. We've started doing this by getting the anti-addiction message to kids in school.
But we need to keep it going. We've come a long way in changing attitudes about drunk driving over the last two decades. And we've also gotten the anti-smoking message out there. We need to push the anti-addiction message in the same way.
We can do this.
We have to.