MIDTOWN — New York State could soon have two special high schools for young people recovering from drug addiction under a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to deal with the state's heroin and opioid crisis.
The so-called "recovery" centers would be a "school within a school" and operated in areas with high rates of addiction in conjunction with the Office for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and local social services agencies.
One "recovery" school would be located in the upstate region. Another would be downstate.
Cuomo, speaking on Long Island during one of his six regional State of the State addresses, said the schools would "help young people in recovery to actually finish school and not compound the problem."
The proposal is part of a larger plan for Cuomo to deal with the opioid addiction epidemic. Other parts of the plan would eliminate prior authorization requirements to obtain drug abuse treatment and add synthetic fentanyl compounds to the list of controlled substances and make them subject to criminal penalties.
Fentanyl is often more powerful than heroin and is responsible for an increase in overdose deaths. The synthetic drug caused 135 percent more deaths in 2015 that the year before.
But because manufactures often change the chemical makeup of the drug, it avoids criminal classification. Fentanyl is now often mixed with heroin.
The governor's proposal would change the classification of fentanyl "so when they come up with a substitute that is almost like fentanyl, it’s covered by the laws," said Cuomo.
In order to limit doctor shopping, emergency room prescribers will now have to consult the prescription drug registry before giving out controlled substances. A 2012 law required health care providers to consult the registry before prescribing controlled substances, but emergency room providers were exempt.
The governor also wants to expand the use of buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid addiction, by increasing the number of providers able to prescribe the medication.
Providers are required by federal law to be registered in order to prescribe the medication. The state will recruit more doctors, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe the drug by offering training.
Ten new crisis treatment centers in each region of the state will be able to connect people to care 24 hours per day, the governor said.
Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon, where the New York City opioid epidemic is centered, praised the plan.
Last year's 90 opioid overdose deaths on Staten Island surpassed the 60 from the year before, even with increased focus on the issue and the 70 people who were saved using naloxone, a drug which reverses the effects of overdoses.
In the first weeks of 2017, Staten Island has already recorded at least six opioid overdoses and two deaths. The borough's representatives are already working with the state on a 24 hour crisis center.
Adding fentanyl to the list of controlled substances "will allow us the tools to immediately charge the peddlers of newly concocted mixtures that are finding their way into the bodies of our neighbors and killing them on contact," said McMahon.