Political disagreements continue over NY’s opioid epidemic

A few weeks ago, Capital tonight discussed why advocates are pushing Gov. Kathy Hochul to declare an addiction-related public health emergency. Since then, his calls to do so have only grown as hundreds of providers, families and members of the Legislature from across the state gathered at the Empire State Plaza on Monday.

Capital tonight asked the Hochul administration for its stance on calling for such an emergency. While not directly answering the question, spokesman Avi Small noted that the governor is personally familiar with the tragedies behind the epidemic.

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

Evan Frost, a spokesman for the state’s Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), wrote in a separate emailed statement that the agency recognizes that we are in the midst of the worst overdose epidemic in history and will continue to work. service providers and stakeholders in a range of initiatives to support individuals, families and communities affected by crisis.

According to Robert Kent, chairman of Kent Strategic Advisors, former chief counsel for the White House’s national drug control policy in the Biden administration, and former general counsel for OASAS, New York has the resources to fight the opioid epidemic, but is being held back.

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

According to Kent, providers are unable to hire or retain staff, which means they cannot safely serve the number of people they are approved to serve.

Kent also questioned why the state only buys one brand of naloxone when he said there are now several versions of the drug, all FDA-approved.

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

OASAS spokesperson Evan Frost continued:

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

The main change Kent is seeking involves the state’s roughly 30 recovery centers, which require OASAS and Hochuli to certify them so the centers can bill for peer-to-peer services.

Outpatient facilities like Hope House are required to have peers on-site and can bill Medicaid, Medicare and other insurances for the work these peers do.

Recovery community centers cannot.

According to Kellie Roe, we have nine employees from Second Chance Opportunities, an Albany-based nonprofit that provides a variety of services to people in recovery. Every person who walks through the door is assigned a recovery coach. Each apartment has a recovery coach. Everyone in our employment contract has one. They are a professional cheerleader.

Certification by OASAS would create another revenue stream for organizations like Second Chance Opportunities.

When we moved addiction treatment services into Medicaid Managed Care, it opened the door to licensing communities, such as community recovery centers, that would allow them to bill for services provided by their Certified Peer Recovery Advocates, said Kent, who works with Second. Potential.

In the same email reply to the address Capital tonight, OASAS noted that there are ways for certified recovery centers to be paid for peer counseling, although certification is not currently available under current regulations.

There is no existing rule on the certification of return centers. However, recovery centers can now be designated to bill for community-based recovery and empowerment services, which include peer-to-peer services for people covered by the Health and Recovery Plan (HARP), wrote OASAS spokesperson Evan Frost.

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

OASAS could decide to create a regulation to certify resuscitation centers, which would open the door to serve more people and save more lives, he said. Capital tonight via email.

Another recommendation that Kent says will help prevent overdoses is investing in overdose prevention centers (OPCs), also known as safe injection sites.

The Opioid Mediation Board wanted to get some of the clearinghouse’s OPCs, but OASAS rejected that recommendation because the centers are illegal under federal law.

Kent responded by saying, They ignored federal marijuana law! States like Rhode Island are moving forward with OPCs and using opioid resolution funds to support the work. If challenged on the legal grounds that it violates federal law, they will argue that they were exercising their police power, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution as a power reserved to the states, and will likely win any such challenges.

The parliamentary session starts in two weeks.

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