Legal Action Center Statement on Governor Cuomo’s State of State Proposals

Commends Focus on Improving Access to Addiction Care

January 9, 2020: The Legal Action Center commends Governor Andrew Cuomo on his continued efforts to shift drug policy away from criminalization and towards a public health response.

As the opioid epidemic continues to devastate families and communities across New York, LAC applauds the Governor’s the proposals to increase access to addiction medication to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). Extensive research has shown that medication for OUD can cut a person’s risk of death in half. Increasing access to these medications will immediately result in fewer lives lost to opioid related deaths.

We were particularly pleased to see the proposal to Ensure Efficient Access to MAT through Medicaid, which would create a single formulary to allow patients with opioid use disorder to obtain life-saving medications more efficiently and with fewer administrative obstacles. Removing barriers to lifesaving treatment is critical, as delays in access to medications can be fatal. With the recent passage of legislation to remove prior authorization requirements for addiction medicine in commercial insurance, it is essential that New York address this issue in Medicaid as well.  We look forward to seeing additional details of this proposal and working with the Governor and the Legislature to ensure that administrative barriers to MAT access are removed for ALL New Yorkers.

LAC also applauds the Governor’s proposal to Expand Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in Hard to Reach Communities throughout New York. Building upon previous measures to increase MAT access statewide, Gov. Cuomo’s new proposal includes: expanding the MATTERS pilot program, which efficiently transitions individuals with opioid use disorder from emergency rooms to long-term care; growing the MAT telemedicine program, which connects emergency departments with remote doctors who are able to prescribe addiction medicine; adding 10 new mobile clinics to each economic development zone in the state and ensuring telehealth capacity for at least one addiction treatment program in each county in the state; and adding buprenorphine as an addiction medication option to each of the 7 correctional facilities that currently offer methadone throughout the state. We also support the reorientation of HOPELINE services to utilize peer recovery specialists to connect people to quality, localized care for Substance Use Disorders.

Additionally, the Legal Action Center applauds Governor Cuomo’s call to legalize adult-use cannabis in New York State. As New York moves towards legalization of marijuana for adults, it must ensure that adequate supports are in place to prevent the marketing and sale of cannabis to youth, and that people who need treatment for marijuana addiction are able to access it quickly. In addition, an essential part of this reform is addressing the harms that criminalization has caused to countless New Yorkers who have marijuana offenses on their records. Building upon last year’s marijuana decriminalization bill, marijuana legalization efforts must include the automatic expungement of marijuana convictions. Moreover, New York should automate the expungement of a broader range of convictions to ensure that New Yorkers who are eligible to clear their criminal records are able to move forward with their lives without having to navigate the administratively burdensome and complex process that is currently in place. The Clean Slate NY Campaign looks forward to working with Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to achieve this critical criminal justice reform in 2020.


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