Monday, October 25, 2021

New Laws Meant to Combat the Opioid Crisis in New York State

New York State has enacted a package of bills “designed to remove barriers to drug treatment and make substance abuse prevention resources available to more New Yorkers.”

According to Governor Kathy Hochul, the new laws are “aimed toward reducing drug-related overdose deaths across New York State and encouraging those suffering from addiction to seek help in their recovery.”

The laws include:

• S911/A2354, amending the CPL, the CPLR, and the Executive Law “to promote the use of opioid antagonists in preventing drug-related overdoses,” by decriminalizing possession of opioid antagonists, “drugs that block opioids by attaching to opioid receptors without activating them.”
• S6044/A128, establishing “an online directory for distributors of opioid antagonists making them more accessible to New Yorkers ….” • S2523/A868, decriminalizing “the possession and sale of hypodermic needles and syringes.”
• S7228/A5511-A, expanding “the number of eligible crimes committed by individuals with a substance use disorder that may be considered for diversion to a substance use treatment program” and updating “the term ‘substance abuse’ to ‘substance use.’”
• S.1795/A.533 Relates to the Establishment of a Program for the Use of Medication Assisted Treatment for Incarcerated Individuals

Some local law enforcement officials in the state have criticized the bills as an “unfunded mandate” on counties that won’t solve the problem as intended:

Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli, who is running for governor as a Republican, said “I’m upset by it. I think it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money, and I think it’s gonna bring more problems to all our jails across the state.” “Why instead of actually treating the addiction problem are we giving them something that enables them to continue on with it?” he said. ****
Brooks Bigwarfe, St. Lawrence County Sheriff, and Colleen O’Neill, Jefferson County Sheriff, said they’ll follow the state’s orders. Both declined to offer an opinion about the wisdom of the new law…. Bigwarfe, like Carpinelli, pointed out that it’s an unfunded state mandate, so taxpayers will be paying for the new program.

More on the new laws can be found here.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Three opioid distributors to pay up to $546,000 in settlement with Schuyler County

Three major drug distributors will pay Schuyler County up to $546,000 to settle claims they contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis in that county, under a resolution approved by the Schuyler County Legislature at its October monthly meeting.

Meeting on Tuesday (October 12), the county legislature voted unanimously to accept the settlement and authorized Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to execute the necessary legal documents.

According to the resolution, distributors McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation all agreed to the settlement with the county in exchange for being released from a pending lawsuit filed by the county, as well as later claims brought by the New York State Attorney General’s office.

The agreement calls for the three distributors to pay the county over eighteen annual installments, with payments expected to begin in 2022, Getman said.

According to Getman, the settlement funds can be used for a variety of purposes.

“Potential uses include supporting police and first responders, treating opioid addiction, funding social services and similar anti-drug efforts,” Getman explained.

The settlement also requires the distributors to implement a process for collecting and analyzing data about opioid sales, Getman noted. It will involve the creation by the companies of a data clearinghouse to establish pharmacy-specific opioid shipment limits that each distributor must follow to properly monitor opioid data.

The motion authorizing Getman to accept the settlement was made by County Legislator Phil Barnes (R, District VI) and seconded by Legislator Mark Rondinaro (R, District VII).

It is the second opioid settlement Schuyler County has been a part of in the past two months. In September, the county legislature authorized Getman to accept up to $121,000 from Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to treat, reduce and prevent opioid use through a court settlement with the opioid maker.

The settlements stem from a 2018 lawsuit the county filed against approximately thirty defendants, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. The lawsuit alleged the defendants had long known that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and should not be used except as a last-resort. However, the lawsuit stated, the defendants spent hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of opioids’ long-term use.

Schuyler County was one of many local governments that filed lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for fraudulent marketing practices.

After the counties sued, in March 2019, the New York State Attorney General’s office brought its own lawsuit on behalf of the state. In July, Attorney General Letitia James announced a tentative deal with the three drug distributors that will deliver up to $1.1 billion to New York state to combat the opioid epidemic. Since then, James has begun a statewide “HealNY” tour related to highlight the settlements, with stops throughout the state, including New York City, Utica and Syracuse.

Schuyler County’s lawsuit against other defendants remains pending, Getman said, with the possibility of more settlements and additional funding to the county still to come. Along with the three distributors and Johnson & Johnson, the defendants named in the county’s lawsuit include: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Actavis Pharma, Inc. and Insys Therapeutics, Inc.

The three companies named in Tuesday’s resolution have issued a joint statement "strongly disputing" any wrongdoing. They described the settlements as "an important step toward finalizing a broad settlement" with states, counties, and local municipalities.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Second Amendment Legal Update: October, 2021

A monthly update, prepared for the Schuyler County Chapter of S.C.O.P.E. NY, a statewide 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the 2nd Amendment rights for the residents of New York State. For a complete PDF copy of this month's update, click here.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Schuyler SCOPE, County Attorney give out over 100 free gun locks in Montour Falls

The Schuyler County Chapter of the Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) in conjunction with the Office of Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman, gave away over 100 free cable-style gun locks to Schuyler County families at the Montour Falls Harvest Fest on Saturday (October 2).

According to Getman, the giveaway helps ensure that gun owners are in compliance with New York's strict firearms storage laws, which require them to lock up their firearms while living in a home with someone under the age of 16.

The locks can also be obtained from the county attorney's office by calling 607-535-8121 during normal business hours and scheduling a pickup time. One lock will be available per household and will be provided on a "first-come, first-serve" basis. Supplies are limited.

"We encourage county residents to pick up a free lock so that they can securely store their firearm," said Getman. "The locks fit on most types of handguns, rifles and shotguns. The cable is threaded through the weapon and blocks the barrel or the use of ammunition. It's secured by a padlock and key. The goal is to prevent a young child or another unauthorized person from accessing a firearm in the home."

SCOPE is a non-partisan statewide 501(c)4 organization dedicated to educating the public about firearm ownership, second amendment rights and legislation. The Schuyler County chapter's meetings are held on the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. in January, March, May, October at the Montour Falls Moose Lodge, 2096 St. Rt. 14, Montour Falls, NY 14865.

The Schuyler County Attorney is the legal advisor to the county legislature, county administrator and other county officials. In addition, the county attorney prosecutes family court cases of child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency and other civil matters on behalf of county officials.

Monday, September 13, 2021

HERO Act: COVID-19 safety measures for private sector employers.

Earlier this year, the HERO Act passed in New York State. This law requires all private sector employers to adopt safety standards and workplace procedures that protect workers from COVID-19 or other airborne infectious diseases.

In furtherance of the law, the New York State Department of Labor and Department of Health have developed a new Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, and various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease.

These plans must go into effect when an airborne infectious disease is designated by the New York State Commissioner of Health as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.

Employers can choose to adopt the applicable policy template/plan provided by NYS DOL or establish an alternative plan that meets or exceeds the standard’s minimum requirements.

Currently, while private employers must adopt plans as required by the law, as of the date of this writing no designation has been made and plans are not required to be in effect.

Public sector employers are currently exempt from the new state law.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Schuyler County to receive up to $121,000 from opioid lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson

Schuyler County will receive up to  $121,000.00  from Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to treat, reduce and prevent opioid use through a court settlement with the opioid maker.

 

Meeting in special session on Wednesday (September 8), the County Legislature voted unanimously to accept the settlement and authorized Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to execute the necessary legal documents on the county’s behalf.


 


According to Getman, the funds can be used for a variety of restricted and unrestricted purposes.

 

“Possible uses include supporting  law  enforcement  and  first  responders, treating opioid  addiction,  funding social services and similar efforts,” Getman explained.

 

The drug maker also agreed to permanently end the manufacture and distribution of opioids across the nation, Getman said.

 

The funding is part of a $260 million settlement that Johnson & Johnson reached in New York State to finalize lawsuits brought by Schuyler County, the State of New York and others, pertaining to the company’s alleged role in the increase of use and abuse of opioids.

 

In 2018, Getman, working with law firm Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC as special counsel, filed a lawsuit against approximately thirty defendants, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry.  Along with Johnson and Johnson/Janssen, the defendants included: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Actavis Pharma, Inc. and Insys Therapeutics, Inc. 

 

The lawsuit alleged the defendants knew–and had known for years–that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and should not be used except as a last-resort. However, the lawsuit stated, the defendants spent hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of opioids’ long-term use.

 

Schuyler County was one of many local governments that filed lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for what the counties claimed were deceptive marketing practices.

 

After the counties filed suit, in March 2019, the New York State Attorney General’s office filed its own lawsuit on behalf of the state.   In June, Attorney General Letitia James announced the tentative deal with Johnson and Johnson, calling the largest monetary settlement ever secured by her office.

 

Schuyler County’s lawsuit against other defendants remains pending, Getman said, with the possibility of more settlements and additional funding to the county still to come. 

 

 “Over the past few years, despite its small population, Schuyler County has seen an uptick in opioid and heroin use and overdose,” Getman said. “To date, County officials have expended public resources to help its residents battle opioid addiction and prevent further deaths. This settlement is just one step to reimburse the County for its expenses related to the opioid crisis as well as provide the County with financial assistance to continue this battle.”

 

Johnson and Johnson has stated the settlement was not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by them and the company “remains committed to providing certainty for involved parties and critical assistance for communities in need.”

 

The lawsuits by Schuyler County and others are part of a tide of litigation over an epidemic linked to nearly 500,000 deaths over the last twenty years. The cases have drawn comparisons to the multistate litigation against tobacco companies in the 1990s.  Those lawsuits were resolved as part of the landmark $206 billion Master Settlement Agreement announced in November 1998 between the tobacco industry and the states’ attorney generals.

 

A complete copy of Schuyler County’s lawsuit can be found here

 

A copy of the county’s resolution approving the settlement can be found here.


 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Second Amendment Legal Update: September, 2021

A monthly update, prepared for the Schuyler County Chapter of S.C.O.P.E. NY, a statewide 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the 2nd Amendment rights for the residents of New York State. For a complete PDF copy of this month's update, click here.