The state of New York has announced that opioid overdose deaths among state residents (outside of New York City) have declined 15.9 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, making it the first decrease in the past decade.
While close to 2,000 people tragically died from opioid overdoses last year, the decrease remains a significant milestone and is the result of several aggressive actions taken by the the State over the past several years to combat opioid addiction.
These actions are outlined in the new Heroin and Opioid Task Force Progress Report detailing three years of work and improvements to expand and enhance services aimed at combatting the opioid crisis. The Task Force recommendations were signed into law in 2016.
"New York's first reduction in opioid overdose deaths in over ten years is an important milestone and demonstrates our work to combat this deadly scourge is working," Governor Cuomo said. "And while New York has taken the most aggressive actions to combat the opioid crisis of any other state in the country, the opioid epidemic continues to devastate too many families and we will not rest until we put an end to it once and for all."
While this is encouraging news, New York State continues work on targeted efforts to prevent opioid misuse and overdoses while enhancing services for people with opioid use disorder and increasing access to those services in areas with the greatest need.
After years of rising opioid-related overdoses deaths among New York State residents, 2018 finally saw a drop, from 2,170 deaths in 2017, to 1,824 deaths - a 15.9 percent decrease - according to preliminary State Health Department data covering areas outside New York City. Furthermore, hospitalizations for opioid related overdoses decreased 7.1 percent -- from 3,260 in 2017 to 3,029 in 2018. Overdose deaths, hospitalization and other data are included in the most recent New York State County Opioid Quarterly Report, available here.
The progress is the direct result of recommendations from the New York State Heroin and Opioid Task Force, which Governor Cuomo convened in 2016. The Governor reconvened the Task Force in his 2019 State of the State proposals. Co-Chaired by Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul and Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez, the Task Force proposed new, non-traditional services, including recovery centers, youth clubhouses, expanded peer services, Centers of Treatment Innovation, mobile treatment, telehealth and 24/7 open access centers, which provide immediate assessments and referrals to care. These services have since been established in numerous communities around the state and have helped people in need access care closer to where they live.
"New York is reducing overdose deaths for the first time in years, and while we acknowledge the tremendous progress we've made, we know all too well the devastating impact opioid addiction is still having on our families and communities," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Co-Chair of the Heroin and Opioid Task Force. "Our Heroin and Opioid Task Force Progress Report details three years of work and improvements to combat the opioid crisis and protect and save lives. We are committed to continuing that work to ensure that all opioid-related services get to where they are needed most and end this epidemic once and for all."
Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, we have made significant progress combatting addiction, and though we recognize this milestone, even one overdose death is too many. We will continue to work to improve the health of all New Yorkers and reduce rates of addiction and opioid use."
Office of Addiction Services and Supports Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "New York State has made significant efforts in combating the opioid crisis following the recommendations of Governor Cuomo's Heroin and Opioid Task Force. Through the implementation of innovative programs, we have increased access to treatment; improved support for those in recovery; expanded awareness of heroin and opioid addiction; and enhanced statewide prevention efforts. As there is more work to be done, we will continue taking aggressive actions to ensure that New Yorkers affected by this disease are protected."
The Heroin and Opioid Task Force Progress Report builds upon the state's previous efforts to develop a comprehensive statewide plan to break the cycle of opioid addiction in New York.
Here are some highlights of the progress report:
Increase in Treatment Capacity across New York State
- Since 2016, the state has added nearly 500 new treatment beds, and more than 1,800 opioid treatment program (OTP) slots.
- Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has worked to expand access to traditional services, including crisis services and inpatient, outpatient and residential treatment programs.
Increase in Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services in High-Need Communities via Mobile Clinics and Telehealth.
- Federal Opioid State Targeted Response Grants and State Opioid Response Grants have funded increases to prevention, treatment, and recovery services in high-need.
- This funding has allowed New York State to increase treatment access in these areas with expanded peer services, mobile treatment, and telehealth, as well as targeted prevention services and recovery supports.
Integration of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Services for Opioid Use Disorder in Primary Care Health Facilities and Hospitals.
- Actions to increase MAT prescribing have helped contribute to an increase of nearly 47% in the number of patients receiving buprenorphine prescriptions for opioid use disorders between 2012 and 2018.
Increase in the number of recovery centers in New York State, from three in 2016 to thirty-two currently in operation.
- Last year nearly 32,000 people made at least one visit to a recovery center in New York State.
- Recovery centers are part of the Governor's ongoing efforts to address substance use disorders in New York State. They promote long-term recovery by providing professional staff, peers and volunteers to engage and support people in their recovery.
Other highlights Include:
- Streamlining of regulatory requirements and issuing medical guidance supporting the rapid initiation of MAT, enabling patients to access these lifesaving medications on the same day they enter a treatment program.
- Increased prevention services including prescriber education, limiting of many opioid prescriptions, expanded awareness campaigns, and support for regional coalitions and partnerships that invest in prevention initiatives on a local level.
- Removing many of the insurance barriers that kept people from seeking treatment, including elimination of prior insurance approvals for inpatient treatment.
- Expansion of access to the overdose reversal medication naloxone by increasing insurance coverage for the medication, subsidized co-payments, and regulations to require all OASAS-certified programs to maintain naloxone on site.
- Increase in hospitals across the state initiating MAT in Emergency Departments after overdose recovery.
- Distribution of joint OASAS/DOH best practices for using buprenorphine to treat OUD.
- Expansion of drug user health hubs.