News from the New York State
Assembly Committee on
Alcoholism and
Drug Abuse

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair • Winter 2005/2006

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz
Message from the Chair

I am pleased to share with you news from the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. As we begin the new legislative session, I am proud of all that we were able to accomplish in the 2005 session, and I am hopeful that we will be able to continue to make a positive impact on those struggling with addiction. We must increase recognition of co-occurring disorders, and make stronger efforts to provide better treatment by treating patients’ cases in a more holistic manner. In addition, I am encouraged that gambling has been recognized as the addiction that it is, and that treatment for that addiction is now under the authority of OASAS, the state agency best equipped to deal with addiction issues. Thankfully, through the efforts of myself, Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Assembly Majority, millions of dollars were restored to last year’s Executive Budget proposal for prevention and treatment. If necessary, we will fight just as hard, if not harder, if the upcoming budget is unacceptable.

I recently held a budget hearing for the Committee on last year’s proposed cuts to the New York City school-based prevention programs, and I plan to hold a joint hearing with the Assembly Health Committee on the problem of prescription drug abuse. We were able to pass a major initiative addressing the problem of methamphetamine use and production this past session, but there is still more that we can do, and I will continue to fight in this upcoming session to pass legislation to further protect New Yorkers from this growing problem.

I look forward to working with substance abuse treatment and prevention providers to build on the Assembly’s longstanding commitment to helping fight substance abuse, and I am certain that together we can have a successful 2006 session.

Committee Leads Successful Fight To Restore
$3.1 Million To NYC Prevention School Programs

photo Pictured (L to R) Georges Mathieu, Principal Rene Cassanova, Fernando Mañon, Assemblyman Dinowitz, Teresa Goudie, Wilma White, Charles Ogundimu

Governor George Pataki’s SFY 2005-2006 Executive Budget cut funding for drug and alcohol abuse prevention services in New York City schools by over 15%. This cut would have had a devastating effect on the ability of these programs to continue to provide services and would have put their future in doubt. In a school system that serves over 1 million children, this would have been awful. Fortunately the Legislature intervened in the budget negotiations, restoring over $3 million to fund this critical school-based program.

Following up on the restoration of the funding, Committee Chair Assemblyman Dinowitz visited Alfred E. Smith High School in the Bronx to observe a New York City school prevention program first hand. The Assemblyman met with Principal Rene Cassanova and SPARK prevention counselor for Alfred E. Smith High School, Wilma White. Joining the visit were Region 9 Substance Abuse Prevention Program Directors Georges Mathieu and Teresa Goudie; and SAPIS’s Director of Professional Development, Fernando Mañon.

The SPARK program serves high school students. They participate in classroom lessons designed to improve communication skills, self-esteem, and self-management and to focus on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Students take part in peer leadership activities. The SPARK program provides individual counseling, parent workshops and assembly programs for the entire student body.

Assemblyman Dinowitz met Counselor Wilma White and several student peer advisors. On this day, as part of the National Red Ribbon Campaign, the students wore red ribbons that said, “Freedom Means I’m Free from Drugs.” Symbolizing intolerance of illegal drug use, a National Red Ribbon Campaign was started after the murder of Federal Agent Enrique Camarena by drug traffickers. These peer advisors were charged with the goal of getting as many students to wear the Red Ribbon to present a unified and viable commitment toward the creation of a drug-free America.

The students explained to Assemblyman Dinowitz how effective the program has been in their school lives. Many of the students got involved in the program because they witnessed family members and friends abusing drugs and alcohol while growing up and felt the need to try and steer classmates away from this destructive lifestyle. All of the students said that alcohol and drugs, particularly marijuana, were accessible to them. The students concluded by saying how much they respected and appreciated Ms. White’s compassion and concern for students. Ms. White is well known in the SPARK program for her 20 years of service and immense dedication. Restoring the $3.1 million helps ensure that SPARK counselors like Ms. White can continue her work with students. It was clear from students’ responses and reactions that this was a meaningful program for all involved.

In order to ensure that the funding the Legislature restored is being properly utilized, Assemblyman Dinowitz has scheduled a public hearing on the issue. The hearing will examine the subsequent use of these funds to ensure that the prevention program is running smoothly and that New York City’s school children are continuing to benefit from this important instruction.

Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee to Hold Hearings on Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription medications provide invaluable relief to countless people with health problems, and when taken appropriately can improve the quality and length of life.

Regrettably, the non-medical use or abuse of prescription drugs is a serious and growing public health problem in this country, especially among young people and the elderly. Recent surveys indicate that millions of Americans are addicted to prescription drugs. Many of these addicts are average citizens, with no prior history of drug abuse, who became “hooked” after first using the drugs for legitimate medical reasons. For many, drug usage escalates until they cannot stop; and, left unchecked, the destructive course of addiction can ruin lives and tear families apart.

One of the most troubling factors related to prescription drug abuse is that many people believe that prescription medications are safer than illegal “street” drugs because they are prescribed by a doctor, approved by the FDA, “clean” (not mixed with other substances), and “non-addictive.”

A disturbing trend is that many young people have found that some of the easiest drugs to get their hands on are right in their own homes — prescription medications used by members of their family.

Prescription drug abuse is not limited to younger people, however; many senior citizens struggle with abuse and addiction. Persons 65 years of age and above comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for approximately one-third of all medications prescribed in the United States. Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, which could lead to unintentional misuse, abuse or addiction.

Also, the growth of the Internet has fueled prescription drug abuse. While most online pharmacies are reputable businesses that provide an essential service, there are large and growing numbers of web-based pharmacies that sell medications of dubious quality, without prescriptions, to anyone who is willing to pay.

The Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, together with the Committee on Health, are planning a series of public hearings to be held over the next few months. The hearings will feature testimony from expert stakeholders for the purpose of assessing the needs of persons suffering from prescription drug abuse, ascertaining if the services available to such persons meet those needs and determining if New York State needs to take action to improve services.

Assemblyman Dinowitz Takes Daylong Tour of NYC Treatment Facilities

As Chairman of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, Assemblyman Dinowitz tirelessly travels across New York State, touring treatment facilities and meeting addiction counselors and clients.

The Assemblyman recently took a daylong tour of addiction treatment facilities in New York City. The Assemblyman visited the Callen Lorde Community Health Center, the Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Community Center, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis. All three organizations are well-known for their commitment to the community and helping individuals and families fight against HIV/AIDS and alcoholism and drug abuse.

photo Pictured, left to right, at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center: Miriam Yeung, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations for LGBT Center; Assemblyman Dinowitz; Dr. Barbara Warren, Director of Organizational Development, Planning, & Research for LGBT Center; Jay Laudato, Executive Director for the Callen Lorde Community Health Center; Michele Bonan, Director of State Government Relations for GMHC.

Outlook for the 2006 Legislative Session

As the New Year begins, the Committee is already gearing up for the 2006 session. It is expected that reform of the way Albany does business will continue, and that we will see a permanent end to the legislative gridlock and late budgets that have plagued New York for too long. Hopefully, when the Governor submits his last budget to the Legislature before his retirement, he will finally get the message that addiction treatment works, and will accordingly provide the level of funding that is needed to make sure that everyone who needs treatment can get it. Under the leadership of Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Assembly has time and again fought to make sure that the Governor’s budget cuts would not be allowed to stand unchallenged, and that fight will be no different this year. The Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse will continue to be in the forefront of the state’s fight against substance abuse.

As New York State expands gambling, there is little question that the number of persons needing help with gambling problems will increase. Problem gambling is gambling behavior which causes disruptions in major facets of life, including psychological, physical, social or vocational issues. The term “problem gambling” includes, but is not limited to, the condition known as “pathological” or “compulsive” gambling, an addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, and loss of control by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences.

New York State has only recently begun to realize that problem gambling is a serious issue, and the past few state budgets have reflected that realization as funding for treatment has increased. A further step was taken in this year’s budget, which contained language that authorized the transfer of power to develop and regulate plans, programs and services related to compulsive gambling from the State Office of Mental Health (OMH) to the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). Since OASAS is an agency which deals primarily with addiction, moving authority over programs relating to gambling addiction from OMH to OASAS was an appropriate action that will lay the groundwork for a renewed focus on compulsive gambling treatment.

This change has brought the issue of problem gambling squarely under the auspices of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, and Assemblyman Dinowitz plans to attack the problem head-on in the upcoming session.

Among the important issues the Committee is developing is the Co-occurring Disorders Demonstration Program. “Co-occurring disorders” or “dual diagnosis” refers to those who have been diagnosed with major mental health disorders and alcohol or substance addictions at the same time. At least 50 percent of the 2 million Americans with severe mental illness abuse illicit drugs or alcohol, compared to 15 percent of the general population, according to the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration. The Committee recognizes that all New Yorkers who experience co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders must have an opportunity for effective treatment and recovery, and that systems of services must evolve to reflect the growing evidence that promotes integrated treatment and supportive services. Both disorders must be addressed as primary illnesses and treated as such in an integrated manner. Assemblyman Dinowitz will introduce legislation to authorize a program to facilitate such integrated treatment. The program would be established and implemented within existing, OASAS-licensed chemical dependence treatment providers operating in six locations, with one site to be located within each of the following six regions of New York state: New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, North Country, Central and Western New York. Program participants would be selected pursuant to a request for proposal process. Assemblyman Dinowitz plans to take the fight to deal with the issue of co-occurring disorders to the budget table, in hopes that the Governor and the State Senate will join the Assembly in funding treatment programs.

Another initiative the Committee will be working on in 2006 is a Chemical Dependence Treatment Bill of Rights. Assemblyman Dinowitz believes it is critical that persons taking the crucial step of getting into treatment for drug or alcohol addiction should be treated with respect and dignity. This is essential if they are to regain control of their lives and become productive members of society. Under the Bill of Rights proposal the Committee is working on, any patient or client of a chemical dependence program, service or treatment facility would be entitled to such rights as to participate in developing an individual plan of treatment, receive an explanation of services in accordance with the treatment plan, participate voluntarily in and to consent to treatment, and to object to, or terminate, treatment.

The Committee also hopes to explore the problem of addiction among New York State’s senior citizen population. During the 2006 session, in conjunction with the Assembly Committee on Aging, the Committee plans to hold hearings and meetings to learn more about the needs of the elderly when it comes to addiction, especially alcoholism and compulsive gambling.

As in years past, the upcoming session will be a long and contentious one, but with your support the Committee will continue to do all it can to improve the lives of citizens and communities both in the Bronx and across New York State.

Assemblyman Dinowitz Marches in Albany Health Center Parade

Assemblyman Dinowitz was recently honored at the Whitney M. Young Health Center parade in Albany. The parade was a celebration of the Center’s important work helping local people in need, and of the amazing successes shared by clients of the Center and the community. The Assemblyman was joined by Michael G. Breslin, Albany County Executive; Maxine Smalling, Program Director, Whitney M. Young Jr. FACTS Program; Joseph LaCoppola, Program Director, Whitney M. Young Jr. Methadone Maintenance Program; Shari Noonan, Commissioner, NYS OASAS; Assemblyman Dinowitz; and Father Peter Young, Honorary Grand Marshall of the parade.


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

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