From the New York State
Assembly Committee on
Alcoholism and
Drug Abuse

Sheldon Silver, Speaker  square bullet  Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz Appointed Chair of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee

Assemblyman Dinowitz chairs a meeting of the NYS Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse
Dear Friends:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver recently appointed me chair of the NYS Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. I am honored to chair this committee because it gives me the opportunity, on behalf of the people of New York, to tackle a problem that impacts the lives of countless people throughout New York. In fact, alcohol and drug abuse affects all of us, either directly or indirectly.

So many other social problems are closely connected to substance abuse, including homelessness, mental illness, domestic violence, crime and AIDS. When we fight substance abuse we fight these other problems as well.

The money that the state spends on alcohol and drug prevention and treatment programs more than pays for itself in terms of lives saved and people becoming working taxpaying citizens. That is why it is important to prevent the de-funding and dismantling of programs that have worked efficient and effectively.

As we have seen in the last year, teenage drinking is becoming more of a problem than ever before. Beer is the most abused and readily available drug for teenagers. Addressing teenage drinking and the resurgence of heroin use, and fighting efforts to de-fund treatment and prevention programs, are among my top priorities as Chairman of this committee.

The Assembly has always been in the forefront of fighting substance abuse. I look forward to working with colleagues, treatment and prevention providers, advocates and all concerned people in attacking this most difficult issue in the months and years ahead.

Jeffrey Dinowitz

Sam Hoyt Departs as Chair, Says Thank You and Farewell

Dear Friends:

During the 2002 legislative session the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee worked on a wide variety of issues aimed at enhancing alcohol and drug addiction treatment and preventing abuse. We held hearings on sober homes in Long Island, hosted a round table on buprenorphine in Albany, and held hearings in New York City on the marketing of alcohol to young people; additionally, the committee co-sponsored with the Assembly Mental Health Committee a hearing on Statewide Comprehensive Plans of Services for the Mentally Disabled.

As you may know, the Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, recently appointed me to a new post within the Assembly. Although my interest in fighting alcoholism and drug abuse and helping the men and women of New York overcome addiction remains as strong as ever, I welcome this new leadership challenge.

In appointing me to my new position, the Speaker also designated a dedicated new chair for this Committee — Jeffrey Dinowitz from the Bronx. Rest assured that Jeffrey will pick up right where I left off by continuing to fight against addiction. I look forward to working with Jeffrey on the many issues that are important to us.

It has been an honor to work with all of you who care about alcoholism and drug abuse issues in our state. Together we have accomplished many positive things. Please feel free to keep in touch.

Sam Hoyt

Assemblyman Dinowitz and Dozens of Colleagues Call for "Penny a Beer" Excise Tax

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz was joined by several colleagues and advocates to announce legislation (A.6986) to impose a small increase in the tax on beer to raise funds for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs. The legislation would raise the excise tax on beer one penny per twelve ounces. The funds generated from this tax, an estimated 35 million dollars, would be earmarked directly for alcohol and drug treatment and prevention. This badly needed money would help many under-funded and overburdened providers deliver desperately needed services to thousands of New Yorkers.

This legislation is being well received by the public and elected officials alike. In fact, nearly fifty Assembly members are co-sponsoring this bill with Assemblyman Dinowitz. Many highly respected professionals have endorsed the legislation. Among those who attended the announcement of the bill were John Coppola, Executive Director of New York State Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers (NYSASAP); Henry Bartlett from the Coalition of Methadone Program Administrators (COMPA); and Karen Pettigrew, public policy liaison for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

The social and economic costs of alcohol and drug abuse are staggering. These costs are ten times higher than the amount of money that the state collects in taxes on alcohol. The most effective way to reduce these huge costs is through prevention and treatment. The "penny a beer" tax would generate some of the much needed funds for prevention and treatment, result in reduced use by underage drinkers, and help to reduce the many problems and costs related to alcohol consumption.

New York State currently has one of the lowest excise taxes on beer in the country. It’s well below the national average. This tax has been going down since 1995 and is scheduled to go down again on September 1, 2003. The current rate is 12.5 cents per gallon. This proposal would raise this amount to approximately 23 cents per gallon. (A gallon is the equivalent of ten and two thirds 12 ounce cans of beer.) This amount is still below the national average. The funding would ultimately save the state countless millions of dollars in social and economic costs.

photo Assemblyman Dinowitz and colleagues announce a bill to increase the beer tax by 1¢ per can. From left to right: Director of Methadone Providers Association, Henry Bartlett; Director of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Providers, John Coppola; Assemblymembers Roger Green and Diane Gordon; MADD Public Policy Liaison, Karen Pettigrew; Assemblymembers Margaret Markey, Joan Millman and Barry Grodenchik; and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee Chair, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz

Assembly Commemorates "Alcohol Awareness Month"

This past legislative session, the Assembly passed a resolution commemorating the month of April 2003 as "Alcohol Awareness Month" in New York State.

The Assembly recognizes that alcohol abuse can have devastating effects on the health, safety, and family issues of New Yorkers. Alcohol is a major factor in the four leading causes of death among persons ages 10-24: motor vehicle crashes, unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide. It is also linked to violence, rape, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, school drop-outs and low literacy. Alcohol abuse and its illegal consumption by minors is a serious issue and deserves the state’s attention.

Alcohol Awareness Month was used to "provide an opportunity to underscore important efforts surrounding alcohol and its related problems." In addition, this month helped in bringing attention to the issues surrounding alcohol consumption and in strengthening norms against alcohol abuse.

Tours of Drug and Alcohol Facilities Prove Rewarding, Insightful for Committee Chairman Dinowitz

Chairman Dinowitz canvassed New York State, visiting many different alcohol and drug treatment facilities. From methadone treatment centers in Manhattan and the Bronx to half-way houses in Binghamton and Troy the Assemblyman came away with a concrete and varied experience of what providers in the field of alcohol and drug abuse do on a daily basis.

As Chairman of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, Assemblyman Dinowitz visited many drug treatment facilities. In this photo at Phoenix House from left to right: Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Director Cassandra Prentice, Director of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Providers John Coppola, Director of Corrections Bob DeRosa
"I was humbled by the efforts of what providers do everyday with limited resources to help people addicted to alcohol and drugs get off of the street, stay out of jail, and become productive members of society," Assemblyman Dinowitz stated.

Samaritan Village in Midtown Manhattan especially made an indelible impression. "I would never want to point out any facility over another," Assemblyman Dinowitz said, "but experiencing an entire facility devoted solely to helping our veterans —some going back as far as the Vietnam War—at Samaritan Village’s inpatient center was particularly touching."

Visiting so many different facilities — methadone, inpatient, alcohol crisis and detox centers, and parolee half-way houses — showcased the work that is currently going on in the field. The tours also made evident the lack of resources still needed for the profession. "With such care and quality service provided it would be more than helpful if the professionals working in the field received better salaries," Dinowitz concluded. "Touring these facilities fully reaffirmed my contention that continued funding for these programs are a necessity for the well-being of our state."

2003 Legislation

Youth Treatment
(A. 40, John; Reported From Committee)

Requires youth committed to or placed with Office of Children and Family Services facilities to be evaluated for need of treatment for alcoholism, substance abuse, and chemical dependency; requires mandatory treatment for those found to be in need by providers certified by the office of alcoholism and substance abuse; provides for aftercare for youth released from such facilities except in cases in which the individual treatment plan determines that aftercare will not be beneficial.

Elderly Alcoholism
(A. 512, Cook; Reported From Committee)

Directs the director of the State Office for the Aging, in consultation with the Commissioner of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, to develop elderly alcoholism prevention, education and treatment demonstration programs for senior citizens which will utilize the existing aging service delivery system.

Community Based Services
(A. 566, Hoyt; Under Review, Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse)

Provides for the reinvestment of funds generated by savings due to declines in the state prison census into community-based services for persons suffering from chemical dependence and for the establishment of the chemical dependence reinvestment fund; provides such fund shall consist of an initial appropriation of $10 million for the first year following establishment, and provides that for each year thereafter, 50% of the savings accrued from decline in the state prison census shall be added to the fund; provides for the establishment of the state interagency council on chemical dependence reinvestment fund utilization and for the composition thereof.

Sober Homes
(A. 4892; Reported From Committee)

Enacts provisions for the licensing and regulation of substance abuse houses which provide residence for persons recovering from alcohol or substance abuse; requires licensure by the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and enacts siting requirements.

Beer Tax
(A. 6986A, Dinowitz; Reported From Committee)

This bill would raise the excise tax on beer to 23.2 cents per gallon and create the Alcohol Abuse Services Fund. This fund would consist of seventy-five percent of the excise taxes collected on beer. Moneys in this fund would be used to provide support for funded agencies approved by the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

Alcohol Labeling Requirements
(A. 8046, Dinowitz; Under review, Committee on Economic Development)

This bill would prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption unless its label clearly states certain information. Expert research and testimony on the marketing and labeling of sweet tasting malt beverages —commonly referred to as "alcopops" or "malternatives" — has shown that the packaging of such beverages more closely resembles soda, juice or other soft drinks than traditional alcoholic products. The placement, legibility and noticeability of such labels often are insufficient, and as a result it may be unclear to consumers that such beverages are alcoholic. This bill would insure that "alcopops" and "malternatives" labels must clearly indicate that they contain alcohol since research has shown that such beverages are very popular with persons under the legal drinking age.

Medicaid Rates
(A. 8048, Dinowitz; Reported From Committee)

Sets weekly rates for medical assistance for methadone maintenance service and program providers commencing on April 1, 2004; directs weekly rates for medical assistance and allows for the adjustment of rates by an inflationary factor effective the first of January of each subsequent calendar year; authorizes the Department of Health in consultation with the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to promulgate rules and regulations.

Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Holds Hearing on Heroin Epidemic

On May 9, 2003, the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse held a hearing in Manhattan on the rising rates of heroin use. Witnesses included directors, counselors, and advocates from the profession of alcoholism and drug abuse treatment. The testimony of the many witnesses made it very clear: heroin use is on the rise, and it is affecting younger and younger persons today.

The most alarming news is that heroin use is being seen by teenagers as a fun, experimental drug, whereas in decades past, it was seen as a drug only used by addicts via intravenous injection. The purity of heroin today is much higher, allowing for it to be smoked and snorted rather than injected. The age of those trying it for the first time has dropped drastically, from 27 a decade ago to 17 today.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol chair a hearing addressing the growing use of heroin
The earlier one starts using drugs, the greater the chance of addiction. Because persons as young as 17 are trying heroin, the addiction treatment field is seeing much younger persons entering treatment for heroin abuse. The demographics are changing as well. Heroin use, known as an urban drug used primarily by the poor, is being used more and more by suburban working- and middle-class teenagers.

In addition to describing the epidemic, several witnesses provided suggestions for prevention. Luke Nasta, a long-time counselor for adolescents, who works at Camelot in Staten Island, urged that more resources need to be devoted to providing services for the families affected by addiction, especially for youth and young adults in treatment. Though methadone carries a stigma, even after more than 30 years of successful treatment, it is still proving essential in helping those addicted to opiates like heroin to become capable of leading a productive life.

Did You Know…

  • Approximately 9.7 million current drinkers in the United States are between the ages of 12-20.
  • Underage and excessive drinking account for half of the alcohol beverage industry’s sales.
  • A recent study indicates that drug treatment services lead to lower recidivism rates and higher employment rates among convicted offenders compared to those sent to prison.
  • Adolescents who consume alcohol are seven times more likely to have sex than those who do not, and those that use illicit substances are five times more likely.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz
Chair, Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse
New York State Assembly
Room 627 LOB green box Albany, NY 12248 green box 518-455-5965

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