AFTER 'ROCK' REFORM: WHAT HAPPENS TO REHAB?
Expanded drug courts and holistic re-entry planning are under discussion, along with up to 3,000 more slots for addiction treatment.
By Casey Samulski
City Limits WEEKLY #686
May 11, 2009
Now that New York state's Rockefeller drug laws have been reformed, mandatory prison sentences no longer come with convictions for any but the highest level of non-violent offenders found guilty of drug possession. Now judges can send drug addicts who would have gone to prison to treatment programs instead. Viewing addiction more often as an affliction rather than a crime – better treated through rehabilitation than confinement – will mean a stream of new clients at drug rehab centers, which are planning for the influx.
Under the reforms, an additional 1,000 to 2,000 offenders per year could be diverted from prison to drug treatment, raising questions around the state about how to handle the increased caseload. Gov. Paterson recently announced the creation of a group called ACTION – the Addictions Collaborative to Improve Outcomes for New York – a council of commissioners from 20 state agencies as well as the nonprofit and private sectors. Its mandate is to identify “ways in which statutes, regulations, rules and policies may be revised in order to promote addiction prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.”
Accompanying the planning group is an additional $50 million appropriation for treatment to be disbursed through the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS,) which regulates and certifies all operating drug treatment centers in the state. Over 1,500 certified treatment centers work with an estimated 110,000 New Yorkers every day. The state currently spends close to $2 billion annually – across a number of agencies – on substance abuse, treatment, and recovery, and the new funding is an addition to OASAS’ current $713 million budget. The $50 million will be distributed over the next three years to help build and improve residential and outpatient capacity, to help treatment networks to meet the increased demand that's anticipated.
OASAS Commissioner Karen Carpenter-Palumbo praised the changes to the Rockefeller laws, congratulating the governor in an interview for “leading the country,” calling the changes a “landmark reform.” Carpenter-Palumbo expressed confidence that the additional funding would cover increased use of the treatment system, saying, “I’m confident we have the resources we need to make it real.”