Local lawmakers: From addiction recovery to cybersecurity

Here's a recap of what some of Staten Island's lawmakers have been up to recently.

FIGHTING SUBSTANCE ABUSE 

Councilman Joe Borelli (R-South Shore) recently announced he is introducing a two-part legislative package focusing on the availability of substance abuse prevention services in schools and the overall long-term effectiveness of publicly funded inpatient and outpatient programs. 

The first part of the legislative package would require the New York City Department of Education to track outcomes of its substance abuse prevention and intervention specialist (SAPIS) program in order to quantify its effectiveness.  

"We know that students in younger grades are talking to each other about drugs.  We need to ensure that they are also being spoken to by professional counselors who can identify potential problems before they grow," Borelli said. "We believe the SAPIS program is successful, but unless there is a way to track outcomes and align it with public health data, we can't prove their need. The goal of this is to ensure that schools which could benefit from substance abuse specialists be required to have them."

The councilman will also sponsor a resolution, which calls upon the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services  to re-evaluate the way in which it quantifies and reports outcomes in the state's publicly funded inpatient and outpatient facilities.

Currently, addiction programs report results upon each patient's completion of a program, and not the long-term success. Borelli is hoping for a new system which tracks patient sobriety at either the three- or five-year mark. This data would be used by public decision-makers to determine how funds are best allocated to the most successful recovery programs, and it could also potentially give consumers the opportunity to see accurate statistics about any program they are considering for themselves or a loved one.

LEGISLATION ON FOLDING KNIVES

Sen. Diane J. Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Dan Quart (D-Manhattan) announced this week that the Senate passed their gravity knife reform legislation, to prevent the needless arrest of thousands who use folding knives as tools.

The bill had previously passed the Assembly, and will now head to the governor's desk for signature.

For many trades people, such as construction workers and electricians, folding knives are necessary tools. Between 2003 and 2013, 60,000 people were arrested under the current law.

"This outdated law long ago lost its edge, and this legislation would sharpen our regulations, to ensure that people are not being senselessly arrested. When it comes to the use of common folding knives, our working men and women are being senselessly targeted, for nothing more than doing their jobs. …," said Savino.

The bill would narrow the legal definitions of "switchblade knife" and "gravity knife" to ensure that the law's original intent — to ban dangerous weapons — is upheld, while protecting the use of folding knives, which are necessary tools.

CURBING HEROIN, OPIOID CRISIS

Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) and Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D–Mid-Island) recently announced a package of legislation aimed at curbing the heroin and opioid crisis.

The proposed legislation addresses many of the issues which have hampered the response to this crisis, including: The elimination of insurance barriers to addiction treatment so patients can get the immediate care they need; reducing the prescription limit of opioids from 30 days to seven days with exceptions only for chronic pain; requiring hospitals to provide patients with available follow-up treatment options in their area.

"The opioid and heroin crisis on Staten Island has grown to epidemic proportions and it is incumbent upon us to act as swiftly and decisively as possible for those affected by this crisis." said Cusick. "The legislation being announced today will help prevent individuals from becoming addicted in the first place, will make it easier for those who need treatment to receive the appropriate level of care, and will make certain we have the necessary data from all corners of our State to aid us in this fight".

Lanza said: "This announcement is the culmination of task force committees in both the Senate and Assembly and the Governor's office. The opioid abuse epidemic raging across the country has become one of the most important life and death issues of our time. This comprehensive package of laws should go a long way in turning back that tide and saving lives."

The bills being announced are a direct result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Heroin and Opioid Task Force, composed of treatment professionals, lawmakers, community members.

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CYBER PREPAREDNESS ACT

Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) on Tuesday introduced the Cyber Preparedness Act to make adjustments to the country's cybersecurity procedures. The bill uses ideas proposed at a May cybersecurity hearing chaired by Donovan to improve information sharing between federal, state and local authorities and to allow homeland security grants to be used for cybersecurity.

"Information sharing and adjustments to grant rules might sound mundane, but defending against cyber-attack requires attention to every detail," Donovan said. "The tweaks made in my bill come directly from expert testimony at a hearing last month, and they'll have a meaningful impact on cyber defenses."

In the years following the September 11 terror attacks, state and urban law enforcement agencies established "fusion centers" in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security. Fusion centers are physical workplaces that bring together federal, state and local agencies to share counterterrorism intelligence and information. 

Still, state and local law enforcement agencies sometimes do not receive current information from federal authorities about cyber threats, defensive measures, or best practices. In testimony at the May cybersecurity hearing, Lt. Colonel Daniel J. Cooney, assistant deputy superintendent for the New York State Police Office of Counterterrorism, suggested that federal cybersecurity intelligence is not shared with state and urban fusion centers as quickly as counterterror information is shared. 

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