New York Announces Task Force to Combat Heroin, Opioid Abuse

May 11, 2016

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced he’s forming a new statewide task force to combat heroin and opioid abuse.

Cuomo said the task force is comprised of experts in healthcare, drug policy, advocacy, education, and parents and New Yorkers in recovery. Maria Vullo, the acting superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, will be one of the task force members.

The group will build on the state’s previous efforts and use members’ expertise and experience to develop a comprehensive action plan. Members of the task force will hold public listening sessions across New York to inform their recommendations.

Opioid addiction is a national epidemic that continues to plague families in communities across New York, Cuomo said, adding that the state has been taking aggressive action to tackle this crisis head on.

“We will use the task force’s recommendations to implement smart solutions that will protect public health, enhance safety in communities statewide and save the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo also noted that in March, new regulations took effect that require all prescriptions to be transmitted electronically from the prescriber directly to the pharmacy. The measure is part of New York’s comprehensive I-STOP law, first implemented in 2012, designed to curb prescription drug abuse across the state.

Through I-STOP, New York requires prescribers to consult the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry when writing prescriptions for Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances. The Registry provides practitioners with direct, secure access to view dispensed controlled substance prescription histories for patients in real time.

As of 2015, I-STOP has led to a 90 percent decline in the number of “doctor shoppers” or patients who visit multiple prescribers and pharmacies to obtain controlled substances within a three-month time period.

Also in March, the state Department of Health issued standing medical orders to the more than 750 independent pharmacies outside New York City, allowing these pharmacists to dispense naloxone, an antidote for heroin overdoses, without a prescription.

Members of the new task force include:

  • Kathy Hochul, lieutenant governor, co-chair
  • Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, NYS OASAS commissioner, co-chair
  • Maria Vullo, Acting NYS DFS superintendent
  • Dr. Howard Zucker, NYS DOH commissioner
  • Joshua Vinciguerra, NYS DOH, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement director
  • Michael Green, NYS DCJS executive commissioner
  • Lt. Colonel Frank Kohler, lead on Heroin/Opioids, NYS State Police
  • Tino Hernandez, president, Samaritan Village
  • Daniel Raymond, policy director, Harm Reduction Coalition
  • Charles Brack, peer/family support specialist, United Healthcare
  • Patrice Wallace-Moore, CEO of Arms Acres
  • Michael McMahon, Richmond County district attorney
  • Adrienne Abbate, executive director, SI partnership for Community Wellness
  • Kym Laube, executive director, Human Understanding & Growth Services
  • Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, president and CEO of Family and Children’s Association
  • Anne Constantino, CEO of Horizon Health Services
  • Cortney Lovell, director, Wrise Consulting
  • Susan Salomone, executive Director of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard
  • Patrick Seche, director of services, Addiction Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Jerald Woolfork, VP for Student Affairs at SUNY Oswego
  • Tom O’Brien, Roxbury Schools superintendent
  • Terrence Murphy, NYS Senate
  • Linda Rosenthal, NYS Assembly

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