July 11, 2014 - Today the New York Times published an article on how a decades old provision in Medicaid law is limiting the Affordable Care Act’s promise of expanded access to needed substance use disorder services. The provision, known as the institutions for mental disease (IMD) exclusion, prohibits Medicaid payment for service provided in residential treatment facilities that are larger than 16 beds. Legal Action Center’s Executive Director Paul Samuels is quoted in the story discussing how the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion may result in cuts to the state safety-net funding that has helped to pay for these services in the past, while, if unaddressed, the exclusion will continue to prohibit Medicaid from financing residential treatment in most facilities. As a result, fewer sources of payment for residential services will be available than before the Affordable Care Act was passed.
July 9, 2014 – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with EmblemHealth for wrongly denying addiction and mental health treatment to thousands of New Yorkers in violation of state and federal parity laws. The settlement includes a $1.2 million penalty, required review of certain previously denied claims, which could lead to more than $31 million in reimbursements to plan members, and an overhaul of the insurer’s claims review process. The settlement against EmblemHealth comes on the heels of the Attorney General’s March 2014 settlement with MVP Health Care for similar violations, as well as a January 2014 settlement against Cigna for wrongfully denying mental health benefits, making the Attorney General Schneiderman’s office a national leader in enforcing addiction and mental health parity laws. The Legal Action Center commends the Attorney General for holding insurers accountable under the parity laws, and protecting the rights of New Yorkers who suffer from mental health and substance use disorders.
July 8, 2014 -- Governor Cuomo today announced the creation and membership of the Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration, which he had proposed in his State of the State address. The Council will address obstacles formerly incarcerated people face upon re-entering society. It will also promote collaboration among state, local, and private agencies as well as community groups in order to address a wide range of issues pertaining to successful re-entry, including housing, employment, healthcare, education, behavior change, and Veterans’ services. LAC commends Governor Cuomo for his continued dedication and strong support for seeking ways to assist the formerly incarcerated find ways to reenter society successfully.
National Action AlertTell SAMHSA to Protect Privacy Rights of Patients in Substance Use Treatment Programs!DEADLINE June 25, 2014
June 5, 2014 - The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has issued a call for comments on whether the federal regulations governing Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Patient Records (42 C.F.R. Part 2) should be updated, including holding a Listening Session on June 11, 2014 and receiving comments until June 25, 2014.
May 28, 2014 - The Legal Action Center held a special advanced film screening of Edge of Tomorrow, by the acclaimed director and LAC Board member Doug Liman. Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt and is the eagerly awaited new sci-fi film of the summer. The screening was held on Wednesday, May 28th at 7:00pm at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on 68th and Broadway. Following the screening was an after-party with cocktails and authentic Greek cuisine at the fabulous candlelit Loi restaurant at 208 W 70th street.
May 1 - The Legal Action Center (LAC) has filed three class action lawsuits against two of the nation’s largest criminal background screeners and two iconic New York City real estate companies for egregious violations of laws governing the background check process. The cases were filed in federal court with co-counsel, Francis & Mailman, a Philadelphia firm.
April 17, 2014 - The Legal Action Center mourns the loss and celebrates the life and achievements of Basil A. Paterson. Mr. Paterson, one of the founding members of the Legal Action Center’s Board of Directors in 1973, was a champion for civil rights, justice and equality under the law. Throughout his professional career and in the many positions and roles he took on, he dedicated his life to public service and making the world a better place. He will be deeply missed. We join the legions of his admirers in offering our deepest condolences to his family and expressing our gratitude for all he accomplished.
April 16, 2014 - LAC’s clients regularly encounter barriers to employment and other life necessities due to mistakes on their state-issued criminal records. In a study LAC conducted last year, we found that at least 30% of New York State’s criminal records contained at least one mistake, with many containing significantly more. These errors can be very difficult to correct – and some, nearly impossible to correct.
LAC Applauds NY Senate for Unanimously Passing Bill to Expand Access to Overdose Reversal Medication
March 27, 2014 - The New York State Senate today voted unanimously to pass S6477B. This lifesaving legislation will allow health care professionals to widely prescribe medications that reverse opiate overdoses through non-patient specific orders, thereby allowing trained laypeople to dispense the medication and reverse overdoses. It would also allow programs and individuals to store this medicine.
March 20, 2014 - New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a groundbreaking settlement with a health insurer based on the insurer’s violations of state and federal mental health and addiction parity laws. The settlement includes a $300,000 civil penalty, required review of certain previously denied claims, which could lead to more than $6 million in reimbursements to plan members, and an overhaul of the insurer’s claims review process.
LAC Praises NY AG’s Agreement with 4 Large Background Check Agencies to End Illegal Hiring Practices
March 19, 2014 - New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Office recently obtained agreements with four of the largest background check agencies to stop engaging in a particular, but common, illegal practice that thwarts job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. According to Attorney General Schneiderman’s March 13th press release, “Under the agreements, HireRight Inc., First Advantage, General Information Services Inc. and Sterling Infosystems agree to follow New York laws that make it illegal to automatically disqualify job applicants based solely on criminal history. Specifically, the agencies agree not to issue automatic rejection letters triggered by a conviction on behalf of employers to ensure that employers conduct the required case-by-case, individualized assessments of job candidates.”
March 11, 2014 - Today, Mayor DeBlasio announced four appointments to fill key public safety positions. Elizabeth Glazer was chosen to head the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice and Vincent Schiraldi was named as Senior Advisor to the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. The Mayor also selected Joseph Ponte to lead the Department of Correction and Ana Bermúdez to lead the Department of Probation.
March 11, 2014 - LAC and our allies in the ATI/Reentry Coalition will be in Albany tomorrow for the Coalition's annual Lobby Day. We will be sharing our budget and policy recommendations for the coming year with a number of State legislators. LAC has coordinated the budget advocacy work of the NYS ATI and Reentry Coalition for more than 20 years and has played a key role in securing critical state funding for organizational partners such as the Fortune Society, the Osborne Association, CASES, CCA, CEO, the Women's Prison Association, EAC-TASC, the Correctional Association, Greenhope Services for Women and TASC of the Capital District. We will also be sharing information about the day through LAC's Twitter feed. Follow us if you would like to keep informed.
March 10 - We are very excited to report that LAC appeared in a number of publications over the last week. As many of you already know, our terrific Director of New York State Policy, Tracie Gardner, was quoted in a Newsweek article last week on the benefits of health care reform for the criminal justice system.
March 5, 2014 - Our wonderful Director of State Policy Tracie M. Gardner was quoted in a Newsweek article this week which described Legal Action Center as "a key driver in developing coordination of criminal justice and health in New York." This terrific article highlights the tremendous opportunities that collaboration between the health and criminal justice systems creates for improving both public safety and health. Read more here.
UPDATED March 4, 2014- Thanks to all of you who voted in Senator O'Mara's poll. Thanks to your successful efforts, we have been able to push the results from approximately 75% against when we started this campaign to 57% in favor. The rallying effort by all of you and by all of our allies was overwhelming. Please continue to show your support by voting here so that opponents of education in prison are not able to reverse our success.
March 3, 2014 - The Legal Action Center successfully saved a job for one of its clients with a criminal record history by explaining to our client's employer the role of the recently created NYS Justice Center and assuring the employer that it had the right to retain the employee (our client). Because the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs only began operating on June 30, 2013, some employers remain unfamiliar with its requirements and so need to be educated about what their role is when making employment decisions relating to employees or applicants with criminal record histories versus the role of the Justice Center. Job applicants and employees with criminal record histories should also educate themselves about their rights. (For more information about your employment rights, check out LAC's free criminal justice publications page.)
February 25, 2014 - NEW YORK FUNDING ALERT
MAINTAIN $5 MILLION TO ESTABLISH COORDINATION BETWEEN NYS MEDICAID HEALTH HOMES AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IMPROVE PUBLIC HEALTH, INCREASE PUBLIC SAFETY AND CREATE SIGNIFICANT COST SAVINGS
February 19, 2014 – Today, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) announced an agreement to dramatically reform the way solitary confinement is used in New York State prisons. Under the agreement, the state agreed to end the use of isolation for youth under the age of 18 and pregnant inmates. The state will also adopt sentencing guidelines for the first time, and set first-ever maximum limits on isolation-sentence lengths, including a 30 day limit for those who are developmentally disabled.
February 19, 2014 – On February 18, Governor Cuomo announced that the “Work For Success” (WFS) initiative had successfully placed 1,646 formerly incarcerated individuals with 1,016 businesses and that the initiative would be transitioning from a pilot program to a standard state-wide model for how public safety and employment agencies engage the formerly incarcerated.
February 18, 2014 - Governor Cuomo, this weekend, announced a plan to expand college course opportunities for individuals incarcerated in Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) prisons. The plan, which would begin in the fall and is based on an existing and very successful program organized by Bard College at six prisons around the state, would use state money to pay for accredited associates and bachelor's degree programs at 10 state prisons, one in each region of the state.
February 13, 2014 – Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio today announced that New Yorkers who are permanently disabled by HIV/AIDS and receive rental assistance will no longer be required to pay more than 30% of their income towards their rent. The announcement is a massive victory for advocates for people living with HIV/AIDS who have pushed for such protections for many years.
February 13, 2014 - On February 11, 2014, in his State of the Judiciary address, Chief Judge Lippman called for New York State to institute its first ever expungement law. This law would represent a momentous change in how New York preserves and shares criminal record information. Additionally, he proposed that the Office of Court Administration (OCA) no longer include certain misdemeanor information in the records that it sells to the public. LAC has long advocated for these very changes and are delighted that the Chief Judge referenced our decades of work in this area as one of the sources from which he will be crafting his proposals.
February 7, 2014 - On Tuesday afternoon, the full Senate passed the Farm Bill conference agreement. Although the final bill contains significant cuts to SNAP that will undoubtedly hurt children and families across the country, LAC is pleased that in response to strong advocacy by a coalition we co-led, Congress removed two harmful and discriminatory provisions that had been included in earlier versions.
January 23, 2014 - LAC has joined a number of advocates in sending a letter to the Board of Parole in response to proposed regulations (9 NYCRR, Part 8001 and Sections 8002.1(a) and (b), 8002.2(a) and 8002.3) to implement Executive Law § 259-c(4), which was passed by the Legislature in 2011. The 2011 law aimed to change the trend of the Board refusing to release individuals onto Parole based on static factors such as the conviction crime and/or the individual's prior criminal history by requiring the Board to consider the individual's risk and needs assessment and their success in completing their individualized case management plan.
January 23, 2014 - Karla Lopez, an LAC Staff Attorney, and Sebastian Solomon, an LAC Policy Associate, wrote an as-yet-unpublished letter to the Albuquerque Journal in response to a January 10 editorial on the use of methadone maintenance in the local, Bernalillo County, jail. The letter attacked the editorial for claiming that any savings for participants that arose from a longer period without recidivism was negated by the fact that participants supposedly remained in jail longer. The letter also stated that "Equating the value of days without recidivism to the value of days spent in jail...overlooks so many realities of addiction, and crime, as to be virtually nonsensical."
January 21, 2014 -- Legal Action Center commends Governor Cuomo’s funding for alternative to incarceration [ATI] and reentry programs in his 2014 Executive Budget proposal, including continuation of last year’s historic increase in funding for these critically important services, support for a new Reentry Council and a new committee on raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, and millions in tax incentives to encourage the hiring of individuals with criminal records.
January 8, 2014 -- Legal Action Center applauds Governor Cuomo’s call in his 2014 State of the State address to make New York safer by establishing a State Council on Community Re-entry and Reintegration and the Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice to help New York State develop recommendations on youth in New York’s criminal and juvenile justice system. These important new initiatives further the State’s priorities to make our criminal justice system more fair and effective, reducing crime and recidivism and saving money for taxpayers.
Chicago, December 11, 2013 -- Today Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC) recognized the outstanding contributions to fairness and justice that the Legal Action Center’s Director/President, Paul Samuels, has made over the past four decades by honoring him with one of two TASC 2013 Leadership Awards. Paul has fought on behalf of people with addiction histories, HIV/AIDS, and criminal records since 1976, participating in and leading Legal Action Center to major victories in litigation and in policy - at the federal and New York State level, as well as around the country - which have had an enormous impact on the lives of our clients. We congratulate Paul on this well-deserved honor.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center) released a new policy brief in partnership with the Legal Action Center today, entitled Medicaid and Financing Health Care for Individuals Involved with the Criminal Justice System. LAC's staff authored the content. Support for the production of this brief was provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The brief outlines opportunities for states and localities to improve public health and safety outcomes and reduce spending on corrections and health care services by maximizing the appropriate use of Medicaid coverage for people involved with the criminal justice system.