News & Info for NYS Council Members

November 6, 2023

Last week, I was invited to attend a briefing hosted by Angela Profeta, Deputy Secretary for Health under Governor Hochul.  Briefing participants included many leaders of associations representing providers along New York’s healthcare continuum of care.  The NYS Council was pleased to represent behavioral health (mental health and substance use disorder) providers and the individuals we serve, at the event.

Deputy Secretary Profeta shared information regarding the new Future of Healthcare Commission that includes several national healthcare experts including a former Obama Administration HHS lead, a NYS Medicaid Director, a former NYS Budget Director, a health plan CEO, and several private equity firm leaders. The Commission is tasked with identifying strategies to ensure the long-term resilience of New York’s health care system. The Commission will offer formal recommendations submitted annually. The Commission’s first recommendations will be due before the end of 2024 and will be released publicly.

Today at 11:00 a.m., NYS Division of Budget (DOB) Director Blake Washington will speak with Capitol Pressroom host David Lombardo and discuss the mid-year financial plan update, including what it says about future budget deficits, spending on Medicaid costs, and future decreases in federal aid.  Recently, we sent you a copy of a Memo obtained by Politico, from Budget Director Washington to Governor Hochul warning against continued state spending (at current levels) to address the migrant crisis in NYC,  The Memo stated that although mid-year revenues are better than anticipated, and the budget deficit has decreased significantly, without federal assistance to address the crisis in NYC, NYS may need to make cuts to Medicaid and other areas of state spending in SFY ’24-’25.   Current budget deficit projections for the coming budget year are around $4-5B.  This is a significant reduction from prior financial projections.
Capitol Press Room at 11:00 today:

If you missed the OASAS Addiction Funding Restructuring Webinar last week, you can view the presentation online at the link below.  Last week the NYS Council sent slides from a prior Webinar on the same topic on 10/26 and 10/30, and we announced that we have retained Health Management Associates (HMA) as our consultants who will help to interpret what is being presented to stakeholders, analyze data, and assist NYS Council members as we formulate our feedback and recommendations to OASAS as the Project moves forward.

(Politico, 11/6)

Providers of substance-use services are bracing for Gov. Kathy Hochul to again reject their pleas for using New York’s $2.6 billion in opioid settlement funds to support overdose prevention centers, after the governor said funds should be used only for initiatives that would “withstand a legal challenge.”

There are onlytwo such centers in New York, where drug users are supervised by staff trained to respond to overdoses and connected to other services.

The two sites, which are in Washington Heights and East Harlem, have been used about 94,000 times by nearly 4,000 people since opening in late 2021.

Staff have intervened in over 1,100 overdoses, according to data from OnPoint NYC, the nonprofit that runs the centers.

That data, plus research from other countries where the centers operate, prompted the state Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board to recommend for a second time in a row that the Hochul administration allocate money to them.

Specifically, the board recommended funding a demonstration project, in the hope that an explicit focus on research might win over a long-noncommittal Hochul; the board’s inaugural set of recommendations last year called for the state to look for potential sites for new overdose prevention centers and to develop compliance and risk policies for their operation.

“We put in the recommendations in good faith, and we are hoping for the best,” board Chair Debra Pantin said in an interview.

But Hochul’s stance appears to have only hardened since this time last year, when the commissioner of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, or OASAS, rejected the overdose prevention center recommendation, arguing that it would violate state and federal laws.

“We are engaging in harm-reduction strategies,” Hochul said last week, referencing a public health approach that targets the adverse effects of drug use. “There’s not only one. The ones that we’re doing are proven to be successful but also legal.”

Sam Rivera, OnPoint NYC’s executive director, said the governor’s comments are “shameful.”

“Her finally coming out and being honest as to where she stands is painful to experience … to experience someone comfortably making health-changing decisions in a political matter,” Rivera said in an interview. “It’s clear that the lives of the folks we serve are not valued.”

Hochul’s stance also contradicts past public statements by the two commissioners advising her on the overdose crisis: Health Department Commissioner James McDonald and OASAS Commissioner Chinazo Cunningham.

“We want to make sure that people who have a chronic disease, whether it’s opiate use disorder or substance dependence, have a safe place to consume their drugs,” McDonald told The Brown Daily Herald in 2021, when he was medical director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

“Unequivocally, overdose prevention centers save lives,” Cunningham told the state Senate in 2021, when she was an executive deputy commissioner for the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.