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Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation To Expand Use Of Rehabilitation And Diversion Services To Combat Heroin And Opioid Epidemic

LongIsland.com

Legislation Makes Asset Forfeiture Funding Available to Support Rehabilitation, Substance Abuse Treatment, Health Care and Housing Assistance to Reduce Incarceration.

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Photo by: Vnukko

Albany, NY - August 24, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (A.10403/S.8760) to help in the fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic by diverting substance-dependent individuals who are involved in the criminal justice system. This legislation provides another form of support to prosecutors and law enforcement officers as they seek treatment and counseling for people who are addicted to opioids. These diversion models include law enforcement assisted diversion, known as LEAD, and other programs treating substance abuse and addiction.
 
The legislation expands the allowable use of funding from seized or forfeited assets by law enforcement and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. LEAD programs provide law enforcement officers and other criminal justice officials with the ability to divert people from the criminal justice system into substance use treatment, health or mental health services, housing assistance or other services. Specially-trained officers collaborate with prosecutors, defense attorneys, counselors, service providers, and other community leaders to avoid incarceration. 
 
"We must use every tool at our disposal to combat this nation's opioid epedemic and the underlying issues that lead people to commit crime, and this legislation makes available additional funding to help New Yorkers in need," Governor Cuomo said. "By helping New Yorkers turn their lives around, this program helps strengthen communities, increase public safety and break the vicious cycle of recidivism once and for all."
 
Albany was the third jurisdiction in the country to implement the LEAD model in 2015, and other New York cities and communities are actively exploring implementation. While LEAD has been promising to date, it needs stable funding to support the development and implementation of LEAD, as well as other diversion programs. This bill gives law enforcement the flexibility to dedicate a portion of seized or forfeited asset funding for LEAD, so that they can effectively assist members of the community with overcoming addiction, housing instability, or other struggles that have placed them at the precipice of the justice system. This funding will support the launch of LEAD in other communities.
 
"We're working to enhance and reform our criminal justice system, and this legislation will support treatment services and help to reduce incarceration," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "Forfeiture funding will now be able to be used for substance abuse programs, mental health services and housing assistance. These actions will increase public safety across the state and help New Yorkers recover and turn their lives around."
 
Senator George Amedore said, "In order to stop the seemingly endless revolving door in our criminal justice system, it's important to address the root causes and get individuals who are struggling with addiction or mental health issues the services they need. I'm glad the Governor signed this bill that will give our law enforcement officials a way to fund and expand diversion programs to help get vulnerable individuals back on the right path, and build stronger, healthier communities."
 
Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said, "Albany's nationally award winning LEAD program is a critical tool in our work to improve safety and strengthen our communities. This funding will enable municipalities across New York to replicate this successful program diverting more non-violent offenders from the criminal justice system and providing critically needed services to improve their lives. I am proud to have sponsored this legislation to provide a revenue stream to this important program and thank the Governor for signing it into law."
 
Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has instituted an aggressive, multi-pronged approach to addressing the opioid epidemic, and created a nation-leading continuum of addiction care with full prevention, treatment, and recovery services. Actions include:
 
  • Limiting initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain from 30 to 7 days;
  • Expanding insurance coverage and eliminate many insurance restrictions for substance use disorder treatment;
  • increasing training and education for prescribers;
  • Increasing access and enhancing treatment capacity across the state, including a major expansion of opioid treatment and recovery services;
  • Implementing the comprehensive I-STOP law to curb prescription drug abuse;
  • Launching a public awareness and prevention campaign to inform New Yorkers about the dangers of heroin use and opioid misuse and the disease of addiction; and
  • Assembling a task force to propose initiatives to tackle the heroin and opioid epidemic.
New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).  
 
Available addiction treatment including crisis/detox, inpatient, community residence, or outpatient care can be found using the NYS OASAS Treatment Availability Dashboard at FindAddictionTreatment.ny.gov or through the NYS OASAS website. Visit CombatAddiction.ny.gov to learn more about the warning signs of addiction, review information on how to get help, and access resources on how to facilitate conversations with loved ones and communities about addiction. For tools to use in talking to a young person about preventing alcohol or drug use, visit the State's Talk2Prevent website.  
 
This legislation builds on the Governor's record of working to combat the underlying, systemic causes of violence and crime and reduce recidivism. Last fall, Governor Cuomo announced the investment of more than $7.6 million in funding to support programs designed to help individuals involved in the criminal justice system build skills, obtain substance abuse and mental health treatment, and connect with services to help them break the cycle of recidivism. A total of 31 local agencies and not-for-profit organizations across the state - including 12 counties where services had been lacking - received the funding to assist individuals who have been arrested and potentially subject to pre-trial detention, including those with behavioral health needs who are at moderate- to high-risk of reoffending. Funding also will support programs for individual who can be effectively supervised in the community with these services, as well as stabilize individuals who have violated probation and are at risk of incarceration. 
 
In August, Governor Cuomo announced New York will invest $2.2 million to support a number of programs throughout the City of Albany to combat the recent uptick in violent crime and address the systemic economic and social challenges that certain neighborhoods have faced. Following engagement with the area's clergy members, community leaders, law enforcement and elected officials, this multi-pronged initiative employs a holistic approach to combat the City's violence by advancing both short-term and long-term solutions, including investments to create or expand numerous workforce development, community engagement, social service and law enforcement initiatives. With this additional funding, the state's total investment in Albany's anti-poverty and anti-violence initiatives this year now stands at more than $15.7 million.
 
The Governor also established the Work for Success, which has helped over 18,000 formerly incarcerated people find work upon their release. Additionally, Governor Cuomo formed the state's first Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration in 2014 to address obstacles formerly incarcerated people face upon re-entering society. Since its launch, the Council has helped spur a number of changes to improve re-entry ranging from adopting "Fair Chance Hiring" principles in state agencies to issuing guidance that forbids discrimination at New York-financed housing based on a conviction alone.