Assemblymember Phil Steck (D-Colonie) held a public hearing on Nov. 18 to examine the availability and effectiveness of treatment and services for substance use disorders. The assemblymember, who serves as chair of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, called the hearing in response to concerns from substance abuse treatment advocates regarding dwindling resources and increased deaths due to overdoses.
“The Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse recently took a closer look at the impact of COVID-19 on substance abuse disorder treatment,” said Steck. “One of the things we learned is that while COVID-19 has impacted availability, these issues have been present since the onset of the opioid crisis in 2013. The resources available for these treatment programs are woefully inadequate, leading to capacity issues, delays in receiving treatment and cherry-picking of patients by treatment facilities. It’s past time that we take action to reform this overburdened system.”
Although the 2021-2022 budget allocated additional funding for Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and modified specific requirements to provide additional access points for service, the number of overdose deaths has continued to rise. According to the CDC, the United States has suffered over 100,000 overdose deaths between April 2020 and April 2021, a nearly 30% increase from the previous year.
The hearing consisted of oral testimony by a number of guests and panelists who shared their experiences with the current system and their suggestions on how to improve it. The panelists included: Ann Marie Foster, President and CEO of Phoenix Houses of New York and Long Island; Ashley Livingston, Co-Chair of Friends of Recovery - Warren and Washington; Avi Israel, President and founder of Save the Michaels of the World, Inc.; Leann Lapp, an Ontario County public defender and President of the Chief Defenders Association of New York (CDANY) and the Treatment Not Jail Coalition; Robert McCormack, M.D., Chair of New York MATTERS and Professor at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; John J. Coppola, M.S.W., Executive Director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, Inc. (ASAP); Juan Martinez, a licensed clinical social worker and Vice President of the Coalition of Medication-Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates (COMPA); Allison L. Weingarten, a licensed master social worker and Director of Policy at Friends of Recovery - New York; Paige Pierce, CEO of Families Together in New York State; and Nadia Chait, Director of Policy and Advocacy at The Coalition for Behavioral Health.
“One of the key issues identified is the need to make sure addiction services and mental health services are both provided to patients with co-occurring disorders. This will be a focus of our Committee’s efforts in 2022. We agree that comprehensive reform legislation is needed,” said Steck.