• Need-to-Know News: Jan. 6, 2012

    January 06, 2012

    Updates from Us

    • The Legal Action Center issued a press release praising Governor Cuomo's 2012 State of the State Address and New York State's impressive list of achievements during the first year of his term.
    • The Legal Action Center would like to congratulate Marsha Weissman, the Director of the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA), for being awarded the 2012 Sara Tullar Fasoldt Leadership and Humanitarian Award for her outstanding leadership and significant contributions to the field of community corrections. The Award will be presented next Thursday, January 12. The award symbolizes the life and work of Sara Tullar Fasoldt, former head of the NYS Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives, who succeeded in immeasurably strengthening and improving the field of community corrections.
    • Paul Samuels, LAC's Director and President, is quoted in an article in this week's Alcohol & Drug Abuse Weekly about the Department of Health and Human Services's (HHS) bulletin regarding the Essential Health Benefits package included in the Affordable Care Act. Paul is quoted as saying that “[t]he HHS bulletin firmly establishes the requirements of parity, so that SUD and MH coverage is required for all types of services where other medical/surgical care is covered.”

    Headlines on Our Issues

    State

    • In his State of the State on Wednesday, Governor Cuomo listed the elimination of prison and juvenile facility beds as one of the State's major achievements last year, saying that the State had "worked to put a greater emphasis on prevention and on community-based alternatives to incarceration." The Governor called for New York to pass legislation creating a health insurance exchange, a step that advocates say the State must take quickly. He also called for New York to stop fingerprinting applicants for food stamps in order to reduce some of the stigma associated with the program so that more of the 30% of individuals (over 1.4 million people) who are eligible for food stamps but do not claim them will begin applying. Such a step is opposed by the Bloomberg administration.
    • The New York State Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission met last month to discuss and recommend the possible merger of various State agencies and authorities. A copy of the presentation can be found here. One merger that was discussed at the meeting was between the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). However, a number of concerns about such a merger were discussed and the final recommendations do not include such a merger. The recommendations also advise that any consolidation that does occur be done carefully and phased in over time, that a focus be retained for those individuals who do not suffer from co-occurring disorders, and that senior executives from both agencies be included in a health governance council. These recommendations are supported by both LAC and our partners at the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers (ASAP).
    • The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) has instituted new guidelines on parole supervision. These took effect on January 1. The guidelines aim to reduce the number of individuals returned to prison for technical violations of parole, in part by evaluating the risk level of each individual released onto parole and tailoring supervision levels accordingly. According to a study by the Pew Center for the States, in both 1999 and 2004, of the 40% of individuals that New York returned to prison within three years of their release from incarceration, nearly 3/4 were sent back because of technical violations of their conditions of parole, rather than a new crime.
    • The United Hospital Fund released a new report, the fourth in a series, examining the various possible models New York State could choose in designing its new health insurance exchange, ranging from passive market maker to active purchaser of insurance, and discussing the pros and cons of each option.
    • On December 1, New York State closed Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island, the last of the seven facility closings the State announced last year.
    National

    • The National Institute of Corrections released a new report that “show[ed] that inmates who increase their education in prison are more likely to find a full-time job after prison, and those with a job are less likely to return to prison.”
    • The US Department of Defense has proposed a new rule to end the prohibition on recipients of TRICARE, the health care program serving Uniformed Service members, retirees and their families, obtaining coverage for certain forms of medication assisted treatment. Written comments on the proposed regulations must be submitted by February 27.
    • Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, wrote an opinion piece for USA Today this week defending the Affordable Care Act and her Department's proposed definition of the Essential Benefits Package requirement.
    • Drew Alterman, President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, wrote a blog post laying out what he sees as the major health policy issues that will arise in the US in 2012.
    • The Georgia General Assembly will debate a shift in sentencing to alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenses during its coming session, following a recommendation by a special council appointed last year to study the state’s prison population and criminal code. Georgia's Governor, Nathan Deal, has indicated that he strongly supports such a shift.

    From Our Partners

    • The National Reentry Resource Center will present a webinar on "Overcoming Community Resistance to Reentry Housing" next Tuesday, January 17, from 2 to 3:30. Presenters will include Ann Jacobs, Director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College, Bob Dougherty, Executive Director of St. Leonard's Ministries, Alvin Entzminger, a resident of Castle Gardens, and JoAnne Page, President and CEO of the Fortune Society. To register, click here.