New York State Alcohol & Drug Policy Advocacy

About Our Programs

The Legal Action Center plays a leading role in advocating for more sensible alcohol and drug policies in New York State, including fighting to:
  • Ensure that comprehensive, appropriate alcohol and drug prevention, treatment, and other essential services are available and accessible for all who need them.
  • Shape welfare reform and managed care so that they work to assist people who need addiction treatment or prevention.
  • Protect people in recovery or still suffering from alcohol and drug problems from discrimination in health care, housing, employment, social services, zoning, and other areas, and help them to preserve their privacy.
  • Divert appropriate addicted, non-violent offenders from prison and jail to treatment.

Advocating for More Sensible Alcohol and Drug Policies

Funding Alcohol and Drug Treatment and Prevention Services
LAC helps lead advocacy efforts in New York State to continue and expand services for people with or at risk for alcohol or drug problems, and to protect their rights. LAC works closely with the Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers of New York State (ASAP) to expand treatment and prevention services, providing expert consultation, writing position papers, testifying at legislative hearings, and working with people in recovery and other constituents around the state. Investing in prevention and treatment not only saves lives, saves money that would otherwise be spent on criminal justice, foster care, AIDS and other health problems, homelessness, and other social ills.

Reforming the Rockefeller-Era Drug Laws
After 35 years of research and advocacy, we were proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with state lawmakers in April 2009 to celebrate the newly passed reforms of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. LAC had worked to reform those laws – long seen as overly harsh and counterproductive – ever since they were enacted, over 35 years ago. The new laws adopt a much smarter and more effective response to drug-related crime, moving away from harsh mandatory minimum sentences and making our communities safer by helping to break the cycle of drug use and crime.

  • Click here for LAC's groundbreaking reports on the impact and savings of drug law reform, which helped build lawmakers' support for the legislation signed into law in April 2009.
Insurance Parity and Managed Care Reform LAC advocates for policies and practices that ensure that people in need of alcoholism and substance abuse treatment receive appropriate care and adequate reimbursement for that care. This includes requiring that insurance policies provide coverage for addiction treatment without artificial limits that are not imposed on people with other health care problems and requiring managed care organizations to authorize medically necessary care at the level of care and for the length of stay needed.

Welfare Reform
LAC provides assistance to policy makers and the provider community in New York State on issues related to welfare reform and its impact on people with alcohol and drug problems, including maximizing appropriate reimbursement, obeying confidentiality rules and coordinating workfare and treatment for persons who are determined to be employable.

Medicaid
LAC advocates for policies that maximize the appropriate use of Medicaid funds for alcohol and drug treatment services. One of our priorities is working with New York State and City to enforce a ruling by the federal government that persons who were on Medicaid before being incarcerated must be reinstated upon their release. Currently most individuals leaving jail or prison must apply for Medicaid after their release even if they were eligible or on Medicaid at the time of their incarceration. Because an application to receive Medicaid can take several weeks to approve, many people do not have access to medical care for a significant period of time. This gap in services not only endangers their health, it also can lead to an increased risk of relapse and return to criminal activity. In addition, the State loses federal Medicaid dollars, because without coverage, many of these individuals go to public hospitals, clinics and other facilities seeking uncompensated care when they are sicker and more expensive to treat.

Confidentiality of Drug and Alcohol Records
LAC is the leading advocate in the nation for protecting the privacy of alcohol and drug treatment and prevention records. LAC helps agencies understand how to follow and reconcile the requirements under both 42 C.F.R. Part 2, the federal regulations that protect the confidentiality of drug and alcohol records, and the new Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy regulations.

  • Click here for LAC's free publications on the confidentiality of drug and alcohol records.

Accomplishments

  • Together, ASAP and LAC have successfully advocated for tens of millions of dollars in increased funding for alcoholism and substance abuse prevention and treatment services.
  • LAC successfully led efforts to include a requirement that managed care organizations pay for court-mandated alcohol and drug services as part of New York State's Medicaid managed care legislation.
  • LAC helped shape New York's welfare reform legislation by successfully advocating for the state to (1) "opt out" of the federal wefare reform law's lifetime ban on welfare benefits and food stamps for anyone convicted of a drug felony so that those who have been rehabilitated remain eligible and residential alcohol and drug programs retain the funding they need to provide life-saving treatment, and (2) identify welfare recipients with addictions in the least intrusive manner and refer them to treatment.
  • ASAP and LAC successfully led efforts that culminated in legislation passed in 2000 to ensure that family members of alcohol and drug dependent people can obtain insurance reimbursement for the counseling services they need to cope with their loved ones' addiction.
  • LAC played a leading role in the field's successful opposition to proposals that New York City close down or reduce methadone maintenance treatment.
  • LAC successfully led a broad-based effort to prevent New York City's Human Resources Administration (HRA) from implementing a plan to search Medicaid records in order to identify public assistance applicants and recipients who had received or were receiving alcohol or drug treatment.
Budget Advocacy Teaming up with ASAP, Legal Action Center advocates for increased funding for alcoholism and substance abuse prevention and treatment services.

Updates From the Budget Process for FY 2012-2013
We are pleased to see that funding for the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services suffered no cuts, and that:

  • OASAS will continue to receive funds from criminal justice asset forfeitures.
  • The final budget includes language to create a seven-member gaming commission, which will regulate up to seven new casinos (which would be developed if the Legislature approves a constitutional amendment for the development of casinos next year).
  • The budget also creates a joint OASAS/OMH advisory board.
LAC looks forward to an agreement or executive order to address the need for a health insurance exchange under healthcare reform. In our press release on the state budget agreement, we urged our elected leaders “to ensure that this exchange is implemented to maximize enrollment and coverage of the state’s most vulnerable residents, including people suffering from addiction, mental illness, or HIV/AIDS, people involved in the criminal justice system and the homeless.”

More information: