In September, we marked Recovery Month, the annual observance dedicated to increasing awareness of substance use and mental health disorders. We also celebrate people in recovery, and their successes. And thanks to all the great work we are doing in New York State, we are seeing more and more of those success stories every day.
With new and expanded services, new regulations designed to protect patients, and ongoing efforts to institute innovative programs, New York State continues to provide a nationwide model for addressing substance use disorder. Thanks to the work of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State is leading the nation in the fight against addiction and the opioid epidemic.
As we have seen in recent years, the opioid epidemic is affecting every community in the state. We are seeing more patients with Opioid Use Disorder in our treatment programs, and unfortunately, rising numbers of opioid overdose deaths. But through our efforts to provide a full continuum of care and supports, we are making progress fighting this disease.
One of our key strategies is to constantly work to increase access to our programs. It is important to ensure everyone, regardless of where they live, is able to receive the services and supports they need.
Recently, we received more than $25 million from the federal government as part of the Opioid State Targeted Response program. This funding is enabling us to expand our reach in underserved areas around the state.
The majority of the funding is targeted to impact 16 counties that were designated as having particularly high needs. We are partnering with our providers to expand critical services, including peer services, tele-practice, and mobile treatment. We are also working to increase transitional treatment for people leaving county jails and state correctional facilities, and expanding training for medication assisted treatment and the use of naloxone.
Beyond those 16 counties, we are working on prevention campaigns directed at underserved, hard to reach young people, as well as those in foster care. We are developing a statewide youth and young adult recovery network. And we are also working on an education and awareness campaign with a focus on tribal territories and Latino communities.
Beyond the federal grant we are also opening new programs. In the past few months, we have opened two new recovery centers in New York City. That brings us closer to our goal of opening 14 recovery centers in New York State by the end of 2017. These centers allow people in recovery to find a support network and receive vital services like job training.
We are expanding our treatment programs, opening an outpatient clinic in Rochester, an OTP clinic in Oswego, and a new residential treatment center for women with children, in New York City. Our efforts with regard to opening new, and expanding current, OTP clinic has created 3,500 treatment slots since 2013.
The George Rosenfeld Center for Recovery, located in New York City offers family-focused residential treatment services in a unique and beautiful location. At this facility, mothers can have their children stay with them while they undergo an intensive residential treatment regimen.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of family involvement in the treatment and recovery process. New York has been on the forefront of developing innovative programs to help families of people suffering from addiction, including Family Support Navigators. We recently announced an expansion of this program, and there will be at least two Family Support Navigators in each of the state’s 10 regions. These Navigators help people battling addiction, as well as their families, better understand the process of addiction. They also help navigate insurance issues, and offer information on how to access treatment services.
And, to better help those in need find treatment whenever they need it, we’re establishing 24-7 open access centers throughout the state. At these centers, people seeking treatment will be assessed, and referred to the appropriate level of care at any time of day or night.
It is also vitally important for us to be able to reach young people. Last year, we opened our first youth clubhouses. They are places where teens and young adults in recovery can go to find support, and they have proven to be a big success. We expect to open 15 by the end of 2017.
We are also working on establishing Recovery High Schools. These schools are geared towards teens with, or at risk of developing a substance use disorder. They provide an alternative high school program, in a sober and supportive environment, for students in grades 9 through 12. Treatment and recovery services are incorporated into the normal school environment as part of the educational programming.
We also recognize the importance of protecting people who are seeking our services. People battling addiction are especially vulnerable and unfortunately, some try to take advantage of them. We recently issued new regulations designed to restrict patient brokering. That is the practice in which brokers collect payment from treatment providers in exchange for referring patients to those programs. It had already been illegal to refer patients to treatment providers in exchange for a fee. Under the new rules, this referral service can only be performed by OASAS certified and credentialed professionals, who are prohibited from receiving fees. By taking these additional steps to eliminate this dangerous conflict of interest, we are making sure that patients’ needs come first and that people with addiction receive the best services available.
Of course, for people in recovery, it is often beneficial to hear from others who have been through the same thing. For many, it can be a source of inspiration and can help them through their own struggles. And we had the opportunity to share those stories in our documentary, “Reversing the Stigma.”
The film has a simple, but important message: addiction is a disease, it is treatable, and help is available and recovery is possible.
With a release to coincide with Recovery Month, the documentary features real New Yorkers in recovery sharing their stories. It highlights all we are doing in New York State to fight addiction. And it looks ahead to the future, as we continue to work tirelessly against this disease, and for all the people it impacts.
We all know this fight will not be easy. But as long as we continue to expand services and supports and remove barriers to treatment, we will continue to see success, and continue to save lives.