Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York announced on Monday that he would propose legislation that would ban drugs that mimic fentanyl, saying he would make the issue the second proposal of his 2020 State of the State agenda. The move is a response to the ongoing crisis of opioid-related overdoses and deaths that continues to plague the state and the nation.

“The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that continues to ravage too many communities across this country,” Cuomo said in a press release. “In New York we have taken aggressive action to combat this disease, and we are seeing results with the first reduction in opioid deaths in 10 years.”

Even with a decline in overall opioid overdose deaths last year, deaths from overdoses involving fentanyl and its analogs increased in areas outside of New York City by 124% in 2016 and by 28% the following year.

“Despite this progress, drug dealers have turned to lacing opioids and other illicit drugs with fentanyl analogs — a deadly synthetic opioid that current law does not ban,” Cuomo added.

Measure Closes Loophole in State Law

Although fentanyl and its analogs are illegal under federal law, New York state statutes have not been updated to include drugs that mimic the powerful opioid that can be up to 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Under Cuomo’s proposal, analogs of fentanyl would be subject to the same penalties for unauthorized possession and sales as other controlled substances.

The bill would also allow the commissioner of the New York Department of Health to add new fentanyl analogs to the state’s list of controlled substances as they appear on the illicit market. Rockland County Executive Ed Day praised Cuomo’s plan, saying it would help the fight against opioid addiction.

“As a former law enforcement commander, this proposed legislation is just another tool in the toolbox to help protect our young people from the scourge of opioids,” Day said in a statement.

Two-Pronged Approach

Cuomo also announced that his administration would work to expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options for the treatment of opioid addiction, particularly in hard to reach communities. The plan would include several provisions to reduce barriers to treatment, such as an expansion of a program for emergency MAT referrals and improvements to telehealth and mobile clinics. The governor’s proposal would also expand access to medication-assisted treatment in correctional institutions.

“This two-pronged proposal will tackle that problem by banning these dangerous fentanyl copycats and providing treatment to people suffering from opioid addiction before it’s too late,” the governor said.

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