Gov. Hochul announced last month funding in support of a variety of prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery initiatives to help New Yorkers impacted by the opioid and overdose crisis. | Photo via Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
NEW YORK – Gov. Kathy Hochul signed Matthew’s Law, or S.2099C/A.52008, which expands the public’s access to fentanyl testing supplies. This resource protects public health by decreasing the chances of an accidental drug overdose.
The New York State Department of Health and the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) fund initiatives for providers to obtain and distribute fentanyl, xylazine test strips, and naloxone.
“Families across our State have felt the immense tragedy of the opioid and overdose epidemic – it is a pain no one should ever have to endure,” Governor Hochul said. “For too long, pharmacies and other local health care providers have struggled to provide the resources proven to prevent overdose deaths. With our historic investments in testing expansion, along with this legislation, we are working to ensure that every New Yorker has access to lifesaving testing kits.”
According to the Hochul administration, OASAS launched earlier this year a new ordering system for individuals and providers, which has resulted in the order of 2 million fentanyl test strips, 1.4 million xylazine test strips, and 70,000 naloxone kits. An additional 873,000 fentanyl test strips, 340,000 xylazine test strips, and 387,492 naloxone units have been distributed through the state Department of Health-funded community-based programs from January to September 2023.
Matthew’s Law furthers this effort by allowing local pharmacies and health care providers to provide this lifesaving resource to all New Yorkers. The law is named in memory of Matthew Horan, who died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in November 2020. His family has since advocated for a law to eliminate the senseless death and tragedy that comes with accidental overdose.
“We are in the midst of the worst overdose crisis in history,” said Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, Office of Addiction Services and Supports Commissioner, “and expanding the availability and use of resources like test strips is vital to the ongoing efforts to prevent overdose deaths in New York State.
“These materials are lifesaving, and we need to continue to take steps to make sure that we are getting them in the hands of people that need them so that they can reduce their risk of overdose.”
Dr. James McDonald, State Health Commissioner, is encouraged to see that drug supplies will now be more accessible to the public, which could save thousands of lives.
In May, the State Department of Health’s Office of Drug User Health piloted the implementation of four drug-checking programs operated by state-funded Drug User Health Hubs. This care initiative provides information to individuals on the content of their drugs. The results are offered along with counseling and guidance on how to use the drugs more safely. In the first six months of the program, 98 percent of samples purported to be heroin contained fentanyl, and 53 percent had xylazine. The testing program will detect new drugs as they enter the illicit market and warn people of unexpected substances in their drugs.
In partnership with OASAS, New York State offers ongoing virtual naloxone training, which teaches people how to recognize signs of an overdose and use naloxone to reverse it. More information is available here.
–With Jay Domingo/PDM