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Saying it's personal, Hochul signs anti-opioid addiction bills into law

Gov. Kathy Hochul at a podium, next to a a sign saying, "We Are NY/Treating Addiction + Preventing Overdoses"
Office of the Governor
Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of addiction bills into law Thursday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed a package of bills into law dealing with the opioid addiction crisis, saying the issue is a personal one for her family.

Hochul shared the story of her nephew, Michael, who was prescribed an opiate-based painkiller after he cut himself on a meat slicer while working part time at a deli as a teen. He became addicted and sought drugs on the street, became homeless and went to prison.

Hochul said her nephew later began to turn his life around, becoming a sports coach and an addiction counselor. But he slipped up and died after overdosing on fentanyl.

“His mother found him with the needles in his arms,” said Hochul.

She said Michael’s wake drew 500 people, many of whom were themselves struggling with recovery.

“How devastated they were when they saw how someone who had believed in their recovery did not survive themselves,” she said.

The new laws will decriminalize the sale and possession of a syringe, establish a statewide directory for the overdose antidote medicine naloxone, and ban prosecutors from using naloxone use as evidence in a criminal case.

They also require better addiction treatment for prison inmates and divert some offenders into rehabilitation programs instead of jail.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.