New York lawmakers discuss mental health and addiction

NEW YORK NOW – State lawmakers heard testimony on Monday about how New York could integrate the services of the Office of Addiction Services and the Office of Mental Health.

Assembly members held a one-hour meeting, discussing with stakeholders in the health sector what can be done to save the lives of people with addiction and mental illness issues, who can sometimes be concurrent problems.

New York Health Act Rally, June 2021 New York NOW

Assembly member Aileen Gunther, a Democrat from Middletown who chairs the mental health committee, said overlapping treatment in these two areas has worked in the past.

“I’m going to go back almost 40 years, 35 years ago, when I first became a nurse. When people came in with an addiction problem, there was an appropriate length of stay, ”Gunther said.

“They had meetings, they exercised, they talked about food. That was years ago, and because of the medical insurance companies, everything was reversed and care was abandoned. “

Gunther said there has been a huge success rate in the past with treatment centers, which have removed people from toxic environments that may have led them to addiction.

Matt Shapiro of the New York chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness told lawmakers he saw the system work, but also fail.

“Concurrent disorders is something that has had a huge impact on my family. I have two siblings who have had addiction issues, ”Shapiro said.

“I have two siblings, one did not receive the care he needed and is no longer with us, and the other received integrated care, and thank goodness he is leading a productive life. and healthy.

Shapiro said his older brother suffered from substance abuse issues and the family had helped him with it, but they never considered mental health intervention. He passed away in September 2019.

In contrast, Shapiro said his younger brother was addicted to pain relievers after neck surgery, but realized he was using them for anxiety and sought the appropriate help.

Assembly member Phil Steck, D-Schenectady, chairman of the Committee on Alcohol and Drug Addiction, told the hearing that a major obstacle to creating more beds for integrated services is the silver.

“Considering the fact that there probably won’t be a huge amount of income, the difficulty you have is that you have to take it elsewhere,” Steck said.

“I could definitely think of things that I could leverage to fund this particular area, and I would be happy to do so. The problem is, it’s not the majority’s point of view, and frankly it’s not the governor’s point of view.

Assembly member Keith Brown, a Republican from Northport, said the funding problem could soon be resolved through legal deals between the state and the opioid companies, which are accused of having acted in such a way to worsen the state’s drug crisis.

“There is money for the regulation of opioids. There is $ 17 million in circulation. I know it’s a one-time payment, but as more and more of these opioid cases are resolved there are funds, ”Brown said.

“I love the recent Carrie Woerner bill that creates a safe for that money to make sure the money goes to prevention and treatment where it belongs.”

This bill, which was approved by both the Senate and the Assembly in early June, would require any income collected by the state through these settlements to be set aside and earmarked specifically for drug addiction treatment, education and prevention services.

Steck, who backed the bill, said it was a good idea, but not a sure thing.

“There is no such thing as a perfectly locked locked box. For each budget, the governor has used budgetary powers and he can use budgetary leverage to make changes to existing legislation. Constitutionally, you cannot bind future legislatures, ”Steck said.

“I support the bill, but we will have to be vigilant to make sure that the money goes there. “

Steck said the appropriate approach at this time is to look for ways to maximize the resources already available.


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Julio V. Miller

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