Senate GOP introduces bills aimed at tackling heroin, opioid epidemic

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Senate Republicans introduced a series of bills Tuesday aimed at cracking down on the heroin and pain pill epidemic. 

Some of the proposals include making it illegal to steer patients to certain treatment programs in exchange for kickbacks, expanding state funding for addiction treatment and increasing penalties for those selling controlled substances to children under 14.

Senators are also considering stiffer penalties for drug dealers who sell substances at or around treatment centers. 

Drug addiction expert Jeff Reynolds applauds the new measures, but he says tougher law enforcement is not enough. He says it must not come at the expense of recovery services. 

"We've got to have a balanced approach when it comes to supply and demand," he told News 12. 

The bills put forth Tuesday appears to be at odds with a competing set of 11 legislative proposals to address heroin and opioid abuse sent to the Senate and Assembly by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to a list supplied by a patient advocate. 

The governor's list advances issues that the state has tackled in recent years, including increasing insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment.

With just more than a week left to the legislative session, senators said their package was also different from measures supported in the state Assembly. An Assembly spokesman confirmed the two legislative bodies disagree over the right approach to the problem.

"Enhanced penalties are not a solution to addiction," said Assembly spokesman Michael Whyland. "Our position has always been to give people access to services and treatment so we can set them on a path to leading productive lives. That's the place we should be starting from."

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