State To Raise Awareness of Fentanyl Dangers

ALBANY – New York State is launching a new public awareness campaign on the rising fentanyl crises called Hidden Fentanyl Kills.

The project was announced this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called the crises “devastating.”

“Fentanyl abuse is feeding this nation’s devastating opioid epidemic that destroys lives and families, and we are taking aggressive action to get these deadly drugs off our streets and protect communities across New York,” Cuomo said. “By shedding light on the dangers posed by this dangerous and addictive drug, we will help save lives and create a stronger, healthier New York for all.”

The campaign consists of ads and information cards warning New Yorkers about the dangers of fentanyl, providing safety tips on prevention, and offering guidance on how to safely respond to a fentanyl overdose. The campaign comes on the heels of the Governor’s new actions to combat the fentanyl crisis across New York.

The campaign, which launched this week in English and Spanish, is called “Hidden Fentanyl Kills.” The campaign will include digital banners on social media, advertisements on buses, and ads in shopping malls and laundromats in communities throughout New York. Each advertisement will direct people to visit or call the state’s HOPEline number for help, at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369).

As part of the campaign, New Yorkers are encouraged to carry naloxone to help when someone is experiencing an overdose. Under the New York State Department of Health’s Naloxone Co-payment Assistance Program (N-CAP), individuals can access low-cost or no-cost naloxone at pharmacies across the state. At participating pharmacies, individuals with prescription coverage as part of their health insurance plan can receive up to $40 in co-payment assistance for the purchase of this lifesaving drug. Uninsured individuals and individuals without prescription coverage can receive naloxone at no cost through New York’s network of registered opioid overdose prevention programs.

The general public can participate in free trainings on how to administer naloxone at locations across the state. OASAS Addiction Treatment Centers provide free training on how to use naloxone to an average of 500 people each month. In addition, a statewide, multi-agency program has trained more than 10,000 law enforcement officers on administering naloxone. Since the program began in 2014, officers have administered naloxone to more than 3,800 people, saving the lives of nearly 90 percent.  

The Governor recently announced efforts to advance legislation to add 11 fentanyl analogs to the state controlled substances schedule, giving law enforcement the ability to go after the dealers who manufacture and sell the drug. The legislation will also give the New York State Health Commissioner the authority to add to the state controlled substances schedule any new fentanyl analogs that have been added to the federal schedule.

In addition, the Governor directed the New York State Department of Financial Services to take immediate action to advise insurers against placing arbitrary limits on the number of naloxone doses covered by an insurance plan. This new measure will ensure access to adequate doses of overdose reversal medication and save lives.

In New York State, overdose deaths involving opioids increased nearly 35 percent between 2015 and 2016. However, fentanyl-related deaths increased at a much higher rate – nearly 160 percent statewide. Fentanyl-related deaths in counties outside of New York City increased by more than 110 percent.

Heroin and cocaine containing deadly concentrations of fentanyl have been increasingly present in communities throughout the state. Fentanyl is also being pressed into pill form to resemble name-brand prescription opioids. Fentanyl analogs, or chemical variations, range in potency, but can be 100 times stronger than morphine. Just three milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal, compared to 30 milligrams of heroin.

New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state’s toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).