LAC Welcomes Governor Cuomo’s 2015 Budget Proposals

Legal Action Center Welcomes Governor Cuomo’s 2015 Budget Proposals to Raise Age of Criminal Responsibility, Increase Funding for the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and Improve Linkages Between the Criminal Justice System and Health Care.

LAC Calls on the Legislature to Allocate $150 Million Dollars in Settlement Funds to Build Infrastructure for Addiction Prevention, Treatment and Recovery and Additional Infrastructure Investment in Non-Profits Including Alternative to Incarceration and Reentry Programs

NEW YORK, NY—January 28, 2015 –The Legal Action Center (LAC) today applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposals to raise the age of criminal responsibility, improve linkages between the criminal justice and health care systems, and increase investment in addiction prevention, treatment and recovery,  as well as other other reforms included in his 2015 budget.

“This budget shows that Governor Cuomo is very serious about taking important, bold steps to make New York State’s criminal justice system more fair and more effective, and to battle the scourges of addiction, HIV/AIDS and poverty,” said Paul Samuels, LAC’s Director and President.  “The Governor deserves credit for the many wise reforms and investments proposed in his new budget.”

LAC strongly supports the proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, which would mean 16- and 17-year-olds would no longer be charged as adults for misdemeanors and non-violent crimes, with the possibility of prosecuting most violent felonies in a similar manner. Other important initiatives in the Governor’s budget include the dedication of $5 million to help link those in the criminal justice system to the health care services they need and a $14 million increase in overall funding for OASAS. LAC is also pleased that the Governor continued his strong support for alternative-to-incarceration and reentry programs and praised Governor Cuomo for increasing investments in community development, job training, affordable housing and other priorities.

While LAC supports the appropriation of $14.3 million of the $5 billion in legal settlements with major financial institutions to OASAS, we urge the Legislature to invest an additional $150 million of the $298 million settlement funds that originally had been allocated to OASAS to meet the addiction field’s infrastructure needs. New York’s addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery system desperately needs the following one-time infrastructure investments to mount a more comprehensive response to the public health emergency of prescription drug and heroin dependence:

  • Further expand the “Combat Heroin” media campaign to ensure that it addresses more diverse needs and populations, targeting veterans and communities of color in addition to suburban and upstate communities.
  • Expand, modernize and improve services for diverse populations. To its credit, OASAS has already taken important steps to modernize outpatient and residential treatment for adolescents and adults in New York State, and to better integrate addiction, mental health and physical health care services. Seed funding for additional model programs and new capital investments will enable the agency and treatment providers to continue this progress, saving lives and improving the health of New Yorkers with diverse backgrounds.
  • Build the substance use treatment infrastructure needed to support healthcare reform and prepare for Medicaid managed care. Many programs for substance users do not have adequate computer systems, electronic health records and other technology needed to implement health care reform. Moreover, many of these programs will find it difficult to navigate the State’s transition to Medicaid managed care without help. In order to keep operating, service providers throughout the State will need assistance with billing, negotiating contracts with insurers, record keeping and other requirements. Trainers and consultants with the requisite expertise must be readily available to them.
  • Seed funding to establish Recovery Community Organizations. These are local entities consisting of people in  recovery, their family members and friends who are dedicated to improving the lives of local residents by helping individuals find and sustain recovery, which in turn lifts up communities.

Last year, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature passed transformative, bipartisan legislation to begin combating the increases in opioid addiction around the state,” said Mr. Samuels. “The proposed budget will help the State build on this progress. However, we believe that an infusion of more of the available settlement funds into OASAS is critically important if the State is to fully meet the needs of those struggling with addiction and the lack of treatment, prevention and recovery support services around the state.”

LAC also strongly supports Governor Cuomo’s creation of a $50 million Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program to make targeted investments in capital projects that will improve the quality, efficiency, and accessibility of eligible non-profit human services organizations that provide direct services to New Yorkers, and urges the Legislature to increase that amount.  The state’s highly effective alternative to incarceration and reentry programs are among the non-profit agencies that could make good use of such a timely, prudent, and appropriate use of a projected non-recurring State surplus.

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