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Continued: Dec. 19, 2013: Help to kick heroin can be easier for poor to access

  • Article by: JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST , Albany Times Union
  • Last update: August 20, 2014 - 5:22 PM

“It’s the opposite of what’s usually true — that poor people get the requisite coverage here and kids from the suburbs might not,” said state Sen. Neil Breslin, a Democrat and the ranking member of the Senate’s Insurance Committee.

Breslin said the Legislature can use its power to interpret insurance policies. If that doesn’t work, he said, lawmakers can consider a mandate similar to one in 1997 requiring insurers to cover chiropractic care.

“Too often, a crisis exists before legislators are able to do anything about it,” Breslin said.

Other witnesses backed programs, such as those at Catholic Charities and Albany Medical Center, to boost access to naloxone.

The drug can be administered nasally by friends and relatives to reverse the effects of acute overdoses involving heroin and prescription painkillers, which experts say have increasingly been a gateway to heroin for suburban youth.

A pilot program in parts of New York that expanded access to naloxone from paramedics to providers of lower levels of life support, like emergency medical technicians, helped reverse some 200 overdoses in its first year, said Dr. Michael Dailey, an emergency room physician at Albany Medical Center Hospital.

Based in part on that success, the state Health Department this fall approved the use of naloxone by basic life support providers, including most community ambulance squads.

“We need to get naloxone out there,” said Peter Berry of the Colonie EMS Department. “This is a medication that can save lives.”

Brenda Auerbach, whose 20-year-old son, Jeremiah, overdosed in October 2012, said she wished she had access to naloxone when she found him fatally stricken.

Nonmedical personnel have been allowed to administer naloxone in New York since 2006, but access problems and the need to train people to administer it have limited its reach.

“It would have been an option,” Auerbach said. “Instead of me frantically waiting for the ambulance to get there.”

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