This month, your advocacy efforts made history. On March 30, 2018, New York lawmakers passed the 2018-2019 state budget which included the creation of the Opioid Stewardship Fund. This fund makes the Empire State the first in the nation to hold the pharmaceutical industry financially responsible for addressing some of the fiscal liability of the growing public health emergency they helped create. Up to now, the costs associated with this crisis have been placed on the backs of taxpayers, individuals struggling with the illness and their families, and public and private agencies working to meet the overwhelming needs associated with the addiction pandemic.

Our victory requires opioid manufactures and distributors to pay into an annual $100 million fund for the next five years. The entire amount will be spent in the OASAS budget to cover the costs of prevention, treatment and recovery programs, and allow us to seek new investments in future years. The industry that helped to create this public health emergency must now help to clean it up. Despite a significant oppositional campaign by the pharmaceutical industry to deny responsibility, the Opioid Stewardship Fund was included in the budget because of your conversations, emails, and phone calls to our elected officials.

Your activism also resulted in the creation of a new Ombudsman Program which will assist New Yorkers with appealing denials of substance use and mental health treatment. This program is a direct consequence of the recovery community’s insistence that insurance parity be enforced. Similarly, calls for Treatment on Demand have resulted in the elimination of prior authorization for outpatient treatment, and 250 new Certified Recovery Peer Advocates. In addition, we were successful in securing funding for the creation of Family Resource Centers in Western New York and Long Island, and funding for an Adolescent Recovery Clubhouse in Suffolk County and a Recovery Center in Nassau County. Furthermore, advocacy to provide treatment and recovery support for individuals involved with the criminal justice system helped expand jail-based services in New York.

As for Recovery High Schools, this year’s budget allows for state aid reimbursement for BOCES tuition for students from the Big 5 city school districts (Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, Yonkers, and NYC). Without this change, those school districts would have to pay 100% of the tuition costs for their students who would attend a recovery high school.

These are incredibly important changes and they would not be possible without your support and advocacy.

We are so grateful for your willingness to join us in advocating for these vital community-based recovery supports services that are so desperately needed. The more than 1,000 friends who traveled from across the state to participate in FOR-NY’s Stand Up for Recovery Day on March 6th, was instrumental. Everyone who contacted their legislators following Stand Up for Recovery Day was critical. We also thank FOR-NY’s Board for their tireless efforts.

Our gratitude extends to Governor Cuomo, the Senate, and the Assembly for their investment in addiction services and increase in the OASAS budget. We thank Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Senate Finance Committee Chair Catherine Young, Senate Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee Chair George Amedore, along with Senator Fred Akshar, Senator Chris Jacobs, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair Helene Weinstein, and Assembly Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee Chair Linda Rosenthal.

Of course, much more is needed to establish the community-based recovery support services needed and necessary in every county across New York. We have seen overdose deaths continued to climb and even doubling in some parts of New York State. Our commitment to work on behalf of the Recovery community to ensure that there are Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs), Recovery Community Outreach Centers (RCOCs), Certified Recovery Peer Advocates (CRPAs) and Recovery Coaches , as well as Family Support Navigators (FSN) in every county in New York.

We know that the solution to the addiction crisis is when recovery is made possible for anyone who wants it. We know that a major part of that is ensuring that the right investments are made in prevention, treatment and recovery. We have made great strides in changing public policies regarding addiction treatment and increasing support for recovery. While there are still those who view addiction as a moral failing, the tide is changing. A respect for all pathways to recovery, including harm reduction and medication-assisted recovery, is becoming integrated into the public health sector. We will continue our efforts to ensure that everyone who needs treatment receives it immediately, and that recovery support services are available throughout the state, so that anyone completing treatment can connect with peers and services that will enable them to sustain their recovery.

We hope you’ve enjoyed and found useful this issue of Recovery Talk. If you’re interested in writing or reading about one of the many pathways to Recovery or a Recovery-focused topic we haven’t covered, or willing to share your own recovery story with our readers, please contact FOR-NY’s Development and Communications Manager, Shana Kaplanov at [email protected]. We welcome your ideas.

With gratitude for all that you do,

Stephanie Campbell