The Legislature once again has passed a bill making it easier for people to get rid of the prescription drugs that they no longer need, drugs that we have known for years are often the start of an addiction.
Now, we have to see if Gov. Cuomo will sign the legislation into law.
He had the same opportunity last year with a bill that was similar but did not go as far as this one. He chose to veto it. And while he was correct that it could have been better, it was an odd move for a public figure who has been so vocal about doing all we can to help fight this epidemic.
Had he signed the other bill and started the program envisioned then, legislators could have made improvements when they returned to Albany and he could have then signed into law these improvements.
Instead, he did what so many warn against in any complex situation — he let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Or, in this case, he let people die for the next 12 months just because he did not get everything in a proposed law that he wanted.
If he once again finds fault, New York will have to wait again to have the state enact this measure, one of the simplest, most basic, most needed ones to provide a remedy that has been too obvious for too long without being implemented.
The bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Kemp Hannon of Long Island and Democratic Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther of Forestburgh. Gunther has long been a leader in progressive efforts to help improve the health of all New Yorkers and her influence is evident in this latest version with its attention to rural and underserved areas of the state. The bill passed both houses without a single objection, placing just a bit more pressure on the governor to do the right thing this time and save a few more lives, help a few more families.
Here’s how this new plan will work.
The companies that make these drugs and make healthy profits off of their sale will have to spend a bit of that money on various ways to make it easier for people to return the unused pills. They can run their own programs, with state approval, or pay for the state Department of Health to run one for them. The drug companies will cover all costs. Chain and mail-order pharmacies will have to provide safe and approved on-site collection or prepaid mail-back envelopes.
While there have been efforts in the past to collect unused drugs at police stations, for example, they never made much of a dent in the supply because the people who have these pills at their homes got them either in the mail or at the pharmacy in the first place so it makes sense to use the same distribution system to return them.
The bill also comes with a beneficial side-effect. By making it easier to return these pills, people will be less tempted to flush them down the toilet where they can affect the water supply.