(The Center Square) – New York plans to give millions of dollars to healthcare providers to expand drug-assisted treatment for people struggling with opioid addiction.
The state Office of Addiction Services and Support said it plans to distribute $7.5 million in grants to 15 state-certified providers and other treatment programs to establish “low-threshold” buprenorphine services. Buprenorphine, also known by the brand name Suboxone, can help curb withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said the expansion of drug-assisted treatment will “help bring renewed hope to those struggling with substance use disorders, remove barriers to life-saving treatment, and turn the tide of our state’s opioid crisis.”
“Far too many New Yorkers have fallen victim to the scourge of opioid overdose and addiction,” Hochul said in a statement.
To date, New York has received more than $2 billion through settlement agreements with opioid manufacturers.
That includes a Walmart agreement reached in November with more than 40 states to resolve allegations that OxyContin and other strong prescription opioids were improperly dispensed at its retail pharmacies. New York will get about $139 million from the Walmart settlement, according to Attorney General Letticia James.
The state is also getting $230 million from a $26 billion settlement involving Johnson and Johnson and three of the nation’s largest drug traffickers to settle state and local government claims that the companies helped fuel an addiction wave .
New York distributes a portion of the money from the settlements to cities and communities, while the rest goes into a special fund to support prevention, treatment, recovery, harm reduction and awareness efforts, according to the Hochul administration.
Like many states, New York is still grappling with a wave of opioid addiction, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, 4,766 confirmed overdose deaths were reported in New York, up 14% from the previous year, according to the state Department of Health. Many of them have been linked to fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid.
The number of outpatient emergency department visits for opioid overdoses rose 12.6% last year, the agency said, with 10,430 hospital visits reported.
Suboxone, which is usually prescribed by a doctor and can be taken at home, has become a favorite treatment for opioid addiction, but it doesn’t come cheap.
While methadone treatments can cost as much as $3,500 per year per patient, even the generic form of Suboxone costs two to three times that, according to the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors.
Both drugs are highly addictive, proponents say, and are often resold on the streets or smuggled into prisons by addicts. They can also cause fatal overdoses, especially when combined with other drugs.
But dr Chinazo Cunningham, commissioner of the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports, said it’s about saving lives and “ensuring that populations and communities across the state have equal access to critical opioid use disorder treatment services and supports.” ”
“Low-threshold services are built on harm-reduction principles, which include same-day treatment, a non-judgmental approach, flexibility in prescribing medication, and wide availability of medication in places that reach people where they are,” he said.