NY Senate approves measure aimed at battling opioid crisis
ALBANY — New York’s Democrat-controlled state Senate approved legislation Monday that would require addiction treatment providers to contact predesignated loved ones when someone undergoing treatment shows potentially life-threatening behavior, such as relapse.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Pete Harckham, of Westchester County, said his measure is aimed at preventing fatal overdoses by people in addiction treatment who may show signs of drug use relapse, including failing toxicology screenings or missing multiple appointments with counselors.
“Those are red-flag signs,” he said at a state Capitol news conference before the vote. “Today with fentanyl as dangerous as it is, we don’t get chances.”
Harckham said his “Stephen’s Law” proposal also would allow treatment providers to release details of a patient’s behavior or condition to up to three people designated by the person undergoing treatment.
The measure is named for Stephen Canastraro Jr., of Buffalo, who died of an overdose on Aug. 22, 2018, two days after testing positive for fentanyl and oxycodone. His mother, Angela Robertson, said his treatment provider didn’t tell her about the results even though he had consented to having the results of his toxicology tests released to her.
Robertson said she didn’t learn her son had tested positive for drugs until she called the provider a week after this death to find out details of his last counseling session.
“Had I known that, things might have been different,” she said at the Capitol. “The outcome may not have been death.”
Harckham praised minority Republicans for voting for the measure, particularly Robert Ortt, of North Tonawanda, who sponsored the legislation when the GOP held the majority until Democrats took control of the chamber in the November elections.
“This Senate is very focused on this issue in a bipartisan manner, and we will continue to take action in the hopes of saving lives,” Harckham said.
The legislation doesn’t have a sponsor in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, but Harckham’s office said it expects to have one soon.
Evan Frost, a spokesman for the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, said the agency will review the final legislation if it passes both houses and goes to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature.
The legislation’s passage came at the start of National Prevention Week, created to increase awareness of prevention of addiction and promotion of mental health.