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For Immediate Release: October 17, 2014

Governor Cuomo Announces New York's Efforts in Combating Heroin Overdose Commended by National Drug Czar

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has commended the State’s program that trains law enforcement officers to administer naloxone, a drug that can reverse heroin and opioid overdoses. In fewer than six months, 1,400 police officers from 54 counties have attended the State's training, and emergency responders have used the naloxone to save the lives of 38 New Yorkers who had overdosed.

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From left to right, DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green joins with Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, commissioner of the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services; Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; and Valerie White, deputy director of the AIDS Institute at the state Department of Health. Acting Director Botticelli attended a training session developed by New York State to teach law enforcement officers how to administer naloxone, which reverses overdoses from heroin and other opioids.

“Heroin and opioid addiction have claimed the lives of too many New Yorkers – but today we are continuing to make progress in countering this epidemic,” Governor Cuomo said. “By training first responders to use naloxone in the field, we are strengthening the front lines against this terrible disease and ultimately saving lives. I want to thank the men and women of our law enforcement agencies who have worked tirelessly to implement this important training, as well as our federal partners for their support in the effort to end drug abuse and addiction.”

Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, lauded the State's efforts while attending a naloxone training session for about 50 law enforcement professionals this morning at the CUNY Public Safety Academy in Jamaica, Queens. This was the first time Acting Director Botticelli had attended this type of training. His office, through a grant from the New York-New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, helped fund a New York Police Department naloxone pilot program on Staten Island in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health earlier this year.

"The use of naloxone in our communities is imperative, and our local law enforcement agencies are often the first line of defense against unnecessary overdose deaths," said Acting Director Botticelli. "I applaud the leadership of Governor Cuomo and his administration on this issue. We strongly encourage all states and municipalities to implement laws and operating procedures to allow for first responders to carry this lifesaving drug."

The training was developed through a collaborative effort among the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, State Department of Health, State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Albany Medical Center, the National Harm Reduction Coalition and other partners, and is part of Governor Cuomo's comprehensive, statewide initiative to combat the rise of heroin.

To address the nationwide Heroin epidemic, New York State has enacted laws designed to address all facets of the problem, including insurance reforms to improve treatment options and stronger criminal penalties for trafficking heroin. Governor Cuomo also recently announced a new public awareness and education campaign featuring a website, www.combatheroin.ny.gov,  that is designed for parents, adults and young people who are seeking help and information.

New York State began training law enforcement professionals – police officers, sheriffs' deputies and probation officers – in late April. The training is unique in several ways:

  • It teaches officers how to administer intranasal naloxone and provides officers with free kits and a prescription to carry the medication, allowing them to immediately put their training to use if the need arises. The training also provides an overview of the state's Good Samaritan law, which is intended to encourage individuals to seek medical attention for someone who is experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose or other life-threatening injury, who otherwise may have refused to do so for fear of criminal prosecution. It details signs and symptoms of opioid overdose gives officers sample policies for their agencies dealing with the use and storage of naloxone and features first-hand accounts from police officers about the drug's effectiveness.
  • It uses a train-the-trainer model in addition to learning how to administer naloxone and being provided free kits and the appropriate prescription, training officers from agencies or law enforcement academies are taught to teach the class. Trainers also leave with the information and materials necessary to train officers in their respective agencies or academies. Using the train-the-trainer model exponentially increases the reach of the state's training, allowing agencies to provide the life-saving training at their own pace and eliminating travel and possible overtime expenses. The Division of Criminal Justice Services also assists those agencies in obtaining naloxone for free after officers are trained.

State Department of Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Governor Cuomo's efforts to ensure that local law enforcement has the training and resources necessary to combat the destruction inflicted by opioid overdoses deserve a great deal of praise. Recent efforts to expand the Opioid Overdose and EMS Naloxone Programs have already helped reverse over 1,000 overdoses. With our continued commitment, we can expect to prevent and reverse thousands more."        

State Division of Criminal Justice Services Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, "This training is a great example of state agencies working together and in partnership with local governments to help address the scourge of heroin and other opioid drugs. Working together, we have developed a first-rate training that provides front-line law enforcement officers responding to overdose calls with the tools and knowledge to save lives. This epidemic has affected individuals from all walks of life, all across the state. Quick action by officers equipped with naloxone has so far saved the lives of 38 New Yorkers, giving those individuals a second chance at turning his or her life around."

State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "Naloxone has proven to be a lifesaver in reversing heroin and prescription opioid overdose. Every minute counts when a life is on the line. That's why it is vitally important to have as many people as possible trained on how to properly and quickly administer naloxone. The more lives we save, the more New Yorkers we can engage in treatment and recovery services.  OASAS has twelve Addiction Treatment Centers that have trained nearly 5,200 individuals, and we're training more every day."

Naloxone works by temporarily reversing the effects of the opioid, whether illicit or prescription, allowing the individual to regain consciousness and resume normal breathing. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone dies every 19 minutes from a drug overdose, and nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers.

Training officers from the following agencies attended today's session: Police Departments of Fishkill, Lynbrook, Pleasantville and Port Washington; the New York City Police Department; New York City Probation; the New York City Court Officers Academy; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; the Queens District Attorney's Office; the City University of New York; State University of New York Police; SUNY Maritime; and New York State Park Police. Officers from the New York State Police also attended.

The Division of Criminal Justice Services coordinated 54 training sessions in 15 counties and will schedule additional trainings as the need arises. To date, 46 police departments, sheriffs' offices and probation departments have requested approval to offer the State's training curriculum. In addition, the Department of Health partners with community providers throughout the New York to train persons likely to witness an overdose, such as professional staff, drug users and their families, on overdose prevention and the use of naloxone. More than 170 agencies have been enrolled in the Department of Health program with approximately 15,000 individuals trained and more than 1,000 overdoses reversed.

Individuals or families who need help with substance abuse can call the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services toll-free HOPEline at 1-877-846-7369 to speak with a trained medical professional. HOPEline staff can answer questions and help people find treatment 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential.

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