News from the New York State
Assembly Committee on
Alcoholism and
Drug Abuse
Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair • Winter 2006/2007

Message from the Chair

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz
I am delighted to share with you news from the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. As you know, the committee, with the support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Assembly Majority, made significant progress in securing and distributing funds in the 2006-2007 Executive Budget. Our efforts yielded an increased availability of money for programs for those who suffer from co-occurring disorders as well as other addictions. We held public hearings on key issues this past year to help us in our efforts to address the issue of substance abuse in New York State.

I am hopeful that in 2007 we will build on the success that we have enjoyed this past year. As you know, 2007 will be a transition year for the New York State government; producing new ideas, new priorities and new leadership. For these reasons, I am excited for what 2007 will bring to substance abuse treatment and prevention across New York State in our ongoing fight against substance abuse.

We will continue to hold hearings, gather information and fight for important legislation and funding in the state budget in an effort to assist substance abuse treatment and prevention across New York State. I look forward to a successful 2007.

Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair
Assembly Committee on
Alcoholism and Drug Abuse

Substance Abuse Claims Victims of All Ages

This year, landmark legislation – The Geriatric Chemical Dependence Act (A. 11243/S. 7930) – was passed by the Legislature. Working together, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Committee on Aging, spearheaded this important legislation to provide grants to providers for the purpose of developing and implementing innovative approaches to serving older New Yorkers with chemical dependence. In addition, this bill aims to provide outreach and education to combat stigma and ageism and to provide chemical dependence specific training to those who serve older New Yorkers.

Assembly Chambers New York State Assembly

Assemblyman Dinowitz stated, “This bill will help New York focus on an overlooked need of our senior citizens. People tend to forget that seniors have chemical dependency issues and with the baby boom generation aging, these issues are only going to increase. But it’s difficult to treat it because our geriatric system is not set up to squarely address seniors with chemical dependency issues. By enacting this bill into law we will be moving in a positive direction to get our seniors the kind of care and treatment they deserve.”

Much to the detriment of the senior population, Governor Pataki vetoed this legislation. Assemblyman Dinowitz has carefully reviewed the recommendations made by Governor Pataki and is planning, along with Assemblyman Englebright, to re-introduce this piece of legislation during the 2007 session. We are hopeful that the next governor will be more willing to support treatment for substance abuse among New York’s senior citizens.

Patients Rights Are For All To See

photo (Left to Right): Raul Russi, Pam Martel, Assemblyman Dinowitz, Hector Diaz, Guimer Marting, Ingle Stephens, and Carlos Montalvo at Bronx Addiction Services Integrated Concept Systems (BASICS).

In recent years our healthcare system has changed dramatically, and the way we are treated as patients by doctors and hospitals has changed as well. In order to protect patients from burdensome healthcare obstacles, the need for a medical patient’s bill of rights became apparent, and was brought to fruition.

In spite of the protections now provided through the medical patient’s bill of rights, work still needs to be done to ensure that vulnerable and stigmatized groups such as persons suffering from mental illness, developmental disabilities and chemical dependency are entitled to the same type of rights and protections that are afforded to persons seeking other forms of medical care. While great strides have recently been made in protecting the rights of our most vulnerable citizens, there is still a deep-rooted stigma against persons seeking recovery from addiction. In order to help overcome some of the stigma that still lingers, the Committee determined that enumerating in statute the rights that persons in treatment are entitled to will help to provide essential protections to this troubled population.

photo (Left to Right): Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Senator Serphin Maltese, and Richard Pruss participate in the dual ribbon cutting ceremony for their new Methadone-to- Abstinence facility and their new Veterans Program at the Samaritan Village Center in Astoria, New York.

In order to protect the rights of persons starting down the long and hard road to recovery from addiction, the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse along with the Assembly Majority led by Speaker Silver passed the “Chemical Dependence Treatment Bill of Rights” (A.9766-A) that would list a number of rights such patients would be entitled to. These rights would not supersede any requirements of parole or of court order or any other mandate such patients might be under if they are involved with the legal system. Instead these rights would help ensure that even people whose lives have been taken over by drugs are still human beings and still deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and fairness as they try to get their lives back on track.

For example, the bill would help ensure that persons in recovery have the right to considerate, respectful care from all members of the treatment system. Consumers would not be discriminated against in the delivery of treatment services consistent with the benefits covered in their insurance policy or as required by law. Consumers would have the right and responsibility to participate in all decisions related to their treatment and in the creation of the individualized plan for their recovery. Finally, all participants in treatment would be entitled to privacy while participating in a recovery program.

Recovery helps not only the person who seeks it, it also helps to reunite families, lower crime rates and restore communities. Any steps we can take to ensure that the treatment process is safe, respectful and therapeutic will ultimately benefit all residents of New York.

Assemblyman Dinowitz Condemns the
Use of Illicit Drugs as Marketing Tools

As if New Yorkers didn’t already face a multitude of problems related to cocaine abuse, a new energy drink has been placed on the market in New York City that is actually called “COCAINE”. This new beverage, created and sold by a Nevada company called Redux, is said to, “numb the throat to add an oral sensation much like cocaine does.” The drink contains no actual cocaine but lots of caffeine; one 8.4 oz can contains 280 milligrams of caffeine and costs about $2. An average cup of coffee contains about 80 milligrams of caffeine. The beverage is said to give a person a “high” coupled with a tingly euphoric feeling within five minutes of drinking it. According to the company, that initial boost is followed 15 minutes later by an energy buzz that will last five to six hours.

photo New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and William Frey are Honored by VIP Community Services in Bronx, New York. Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (center) presents Legislative Proclamations recognizing their work.

Joseph A. Califano Jr., internationally respected chairman and president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, used five adjectives — insidious, disgraceful, irresponsible, reprehensible and disgusting — to describe the drink. In a statement, Mr. Califano, who was Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the Carter administration, said it was “clearly aimed at children and teen ‘partygoers.’”

In order to combat this blatant attempt to glamorize illicit drugs, the committee is introducing a bill that would make it unlawful to sell any product bearing the name of an illegal drug. If it becomes law in New York, offenders could be fined up to $5000 for the first offense. It is our hope that this tough legislation sends a message to all who would attempt to lure our children into the world of drug abuse by offering “legal alternatives” that imitate cocaine or other illegal substances.

It seems clear that a drink which copies the name and effects of illegal drugs has no purpose other than to glamorize drug use. The drink is essentially “pretend” cocaine, designed to introduce the sensations related to drug abuse to the young or naïve. So far the drink is available mostly in clubs in New York and California, but it will be available online, allowing more young people access to it. Through legislative action the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, along with the support of the entire State Legislature, will do everything in our power to prevent that from happening.

Committee Creates Advisory Council
to Fight Underage Drinking

Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are not only adult problems, they also affect a significant number of adolescents and young adults, even though drinking under the age of 21 is illegal. All too often, young people with their whole lives ahead of them are tragically killed in alcohol-related automobile accidents, in college hazing rituals gone bad or by alcohol-related violence.

The facts surrounding youth drinking in this country are truly shocking. Recent studies have estimated that over three million American teenagers are full-blown alcoholics and several million more have a serious drinking problem that they cannot manage on their own. Research has shown that the average age when young people first try alcohol continues to decrease, with current estimates of 11 years for boys and 13 years for girls. Even more troubling is that research shows that adolescents who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.

As part of the Committee’s ongoing efforts to stem the tide of youth alcohol abuse, Assemblyman Dinowitz fought for and successfully created a New York State Executive Advisory Council on Underage Alcohol Consumption. The Council will consist of 21 members, serving 2-year terms, who are experts or stakeholders on the issue of youth drinking. The Council will receive, study and analyze information with respect to incidents of underage alcohol consumption; identify and analyze the responses to underage drinking made by government officials; conduct public hearings; and make recommendations on educational programs, on training programs for law enforcement officials and prosecutors, and on the appropriateness and effectiveness of existing civil and criminal laws.

While young people will always seek to emulate the older people in their lives through risk-taking behavior such as consuming alcohol or smoking cigarettes, this behavior need not be ignored or tolerated. The Committee intends to build on the successful creation of the Advisory Council on Underage Drinking and to continue its efforts to address this critical problem that can be so devastating to our children, families and communities.

Committee Holds Hearings on Proposed
OASAS Regulations

photo (Left to Right): Assemblyman Charles Lavine, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt in New York City

In response to concerns among members of the substance abuse provider community, the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, chaired by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, conducted a public hearing in New York City to address the proposed amendments to Part 822 regulations proposed by OASAS. The proposed amendments seek to curb Medicaid waste and fraud.

However, they would impose new mandates on providers specifically related to patient care, Medicaid reimbursement, and utilization review procedures, which may result in a diminished level of quality care for those suffering from addiction. According to Assemblyman Dinowitz, “These mandates are unnecessary. In 2006 Governor Pataki and Members of the Legislature worked together to create the office of Medicaid Inspector General to combat fraud and abuse in the health care field. Imposing these regulations as a way to combat fraud risks harming overall patient care and, in the long run will increase, not decrease Medicaid spending.”

The hearing was a success in providing members of the committee with sufficient information for the submission of public comments to OASAS. The committee has requested a further review of the proposed rules and postponement of their adoption until 2007.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz
Chair, New York State Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse
Room 627 LOB • Albany, NY 12248
518-455-5965 •

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