A recent press release issued by the Legal Action Center (LAC) applauds Governor Cuomo's decision to sign into law S4239B/A6255B.
The law which requires drug courts to permit individuals to receive life-saving medication for opioid addiction.
The law prohibits a common practice in some courts of requiring defendants to stop taking prescribed medication such as methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone) or naltrexone (Vivitrol), regardless of how well they are working.
The use of these medications, alongside counseling and behavioral therapies, is the most effective form of treatment for many individuals struggling with opioid addiction, according to hundreds of scientific studies. LAC also commends the two houses of the New York State Legislature for both passing this critical piece of legislation unanimously.
According to Legal Action Center Director and President Paul Samuels, "This farsighted law addresses a misguided and dangerous practice in some drug courts: requiring defendants to stop taking life-saving addiction medication, against their physicians' recommendations and counter to all objective medical evidence. These practices, which are at odds with decades of scientific research, put individuals with opioid addiction in a catch-22: stop taking effective medication and risk relapse or continue medication and face incarceration. The consequences of these practices include relapse, overdose, and death. With this law, Governor Cuomo and the legislature have wisely chosen to keep New York State at the forefront of sensible drug policy reforms by promoting best practices for addiction care."
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in America, surpassing traffic fatalities, with more than 36,000 deaths annually.
Opiate addiction has become an epidemic over the last decade, with opiate pain relievers leading to more deaths than those from all illegal drugs combined.
There is overwhelming evidence that FDA-approved medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a safe and effective way to treat addiction. However, because of mistaken beliefs about these medications, courts sometimes require individuals to stop treatment despite the risks of relapse, overdose and death.
In addition to promoting best practices and saving lives, this new law will also save the state money, considering the cost of incarceration in a New York State prison averages more than $60,000 annually while the average cost of MAT is approximately $4,000 annually.
The law will also enable New York's courts to qualify for funding under new requirements announced by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Earlier this year, these two entities announced that drug courts applying for new federal funding could no longer deny individuals access to MAT as a condition of participation.