Archive for the tag 'addiction'

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten/Flickr

The following is a press release from the offices of State Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

A bill introduced by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) to commission a comprehensive study on the social impact of problem gambling has gained a valuable sponsor in the Senate and was cited during expert testimony at a New York State Gaming Commission Forum today in Albany.

The legislation (A.7836), which authorizes and directs the commissioner of mental health to commission a statewide evaluation regarding the extent of legal and illegal gambling by New York state residents, has attracted the sponsorship of Senator Marty Golden and on April 1 was reported to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

James Maney, Executive Director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, gave the bill a positive mention this morning during the forum on “Addressing Problem Gambling in the Era of Expanded Gaming.”

According to Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, who is Chairman of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the purpose of this bill is to mitigate the social costs related to problem gambling.

A survey conducted by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) found that five percent of adults, or 668,000 individuals, exhibited problem gambling behaviors within the past year. Another survey of seventh through 12th grade students revealed that 10 percent, or 140,000 students, showed signs of problem gambling in the past 12 months and another 10 percent of those students were in need of treatment for problem gambling. Of those students in the survey who were identified as in need of chemical dependency treatment, 45 percent were at risk or in need of treatment for problem gambling.

Research has found that proximity to casinos increases the rate of problem gambling among the local population, said Assemblyman Cymbrowitz. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission showed that casinos within a 50-mile radius of an individual’s home can double the prevalence of problem gambling.

The Buffalo Research Institute on Addiction, in its own study, claimed that having a casino within 10 miles of a home has a significant effect on problem gambling. Currently, New York State has five casinos operated by Native Americans and nine independently operated racinos; combined they operate approximately 29,000 electronic gambling machines, which is more than any state in the Northeast or Midwest. New York continues to expand its existing gaming market and if non-tribal casino gaming is legalized, permitting up to seven new casinos to be established, the risk of more individuals developing a gambling problem could increase significantly.

“While it is important that New York State continue to conduct surveys that determine the prevalence of problem gambling and illustrate the need for prevention and treatment services, additional research that measures the social impact of problem gambling is sorely needed,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. Directing such research would allow the state to pinpoint which social costs associated with problem gambling are most predominant among New York’s identified problem gamblers and have also been detected in communities impacted by the presence of a casino, he noted.

“By having this information, New York State and its public officials will be able to develop a comprehensive plan comprising precise policies and regulations that aim to mitigate the social costs related to problem gambling,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. The information would also enable the problem gambling service providers and the casino industry to implement strategies and interventions that target the specific problem gambling needs of each local community and its citizens, he said.


The proposed location for First Steps to Recovery

In the midst of the summer drama centered around a proposed drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility on East 21st Street, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz blasted the agencies involved for ignoring community input. He promised a legislative solution that would force these agencies to consider local objections in the future.

This week, Cymbrowitz made good on his promise by introducing Assembly Bill 8237, requiring that the oversight agency, the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), solicit and review recommendations from local governmental units before approving outpatient drug treatment centers.

As we learned in the attempted relocation of the Brighton Beach-based First Steps to Recovery to a residential building at 2632 East 21st Street, the under-equipped OASAS puts its faith on decision-making in the municipality. In New York City, that’s the Department of Health.

First Steps came before Community Board 15, which blasted the plan. Unfortunately, their letter of opposition was sent to OASAS – not to the Department of Health. So when the DOH gave the a-o-k, OASAS fell in line.

Cymbrowitz’s bill requires the local governmental unit (the DOH) to solicit the opinion of the relevant community board before making its final determination.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly’s Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, which he chairs. In the Senate, it has been sponsored by Senator Diane Savino. As a member of the power-sharing coalition in charge, Savino’s support in the Senate is a fairly positive sign for the bill’s fate.

Here’s the full press release from Cymbrowitz:

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), fresh off a victory over a controversial drug treatment center in SheepsheadBay, is introducing legislation (A.8237) requiring community input to be considered in the placement of outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities.

Currently, the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) entrusts local agencies throughout the state to review sites for outpatient drug treatment centers. In New York City, that task falls to the Department of Health. In July Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, Chair of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, excoriated DOH for ignoring community opposition and recommending approval of a site at 2632 East 21st Street – a “totally inappropriate” location without parking, near schools and in a residential building with young families. At Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ urging, OASAS took the unusual step of overriding DOH and denying the Sheepshead Bay site.

The bill — which State Senator Diane Savino (D-Brooklyn) will sponsor in the Senate — would amend the mental hygiene law by requiring the DOH and other local units throughout the state to solicit and include community input as part of their assessment of proposed outpatient drug treatment centers. In the city, that input would come from the community board where the facility would be located.

In a letter this week to DOH Commissioner Thomas Farley, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said that if DOH had paid attention to community concerns, “it is likely that your agency would have recognized the significant quality-of-life issues that led to the site’s eventual denial.” He said the recent case indicates “clear vulnerabilities in the existing procedure for reviewing outpatient substance abuse facilities.”

“I cannot overstate the importance of these outpatient facilities, but appropriate placement is essential,” he said. “This common-sense legislation would ensure that the community is afforded the opportunity to provide input on the establishment of a chemical dependence facility in their area. It would also help to keep channels open among the service provider, local governmental unit, OASAS and the local community to assure a fully transparent process that remains sensitive to the needs of everyone who is impacted by these facilities.”


The proposed location for First Steps to Recovery

The state agency charged with approving drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers has reversed course, choosing to reject a controversial clinic slated for East 21st Street after initially allowing the project to go forward.

The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) on Friday officially denied First Steps to Recovery permission to move from its current Brighton Beach facility to an expanded location in a residential building at 2632 East 21st Street.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, called the move a “bold and unusual” step for the agency, and declared it a victory for the community.

Cymbrowitz, along with Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo and neighbors of the building, led the fight against the state after they initially shrugged off responsibility to the city’s Department of Health. Cymbrowitz agreed with neighbors that a residential building on a narrow residential street was no place for an alcoholic rehabilitation center like First Steps to Recovery.

“The location was completely unacceptable,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “This wasn’t a case of NIMBY [Not In My Back Yard]. The same night CB 15 rejected this proposal they approved another treatment center elsewhere.”

The owners of the clinic first approached Community Board 15 in November, under the instruction of OASAS to gain approval. The Board denied the facility on the grounds that it was an inappropriate location. However, Scavo also took issue with the owner’s behavior, which she considered rude – for which the owner has shot back, claiming discrimination.

The Board’s verdict was sent to Albany, but OASAS left the decision up to the city’s Department of Health – which never consulted the Board. Without notification to the Board or elected officials, the DOH granted temporary permits, and First Steps began renovating the new location.

Neighbors were the first to sound the alarm, which channeled back up through Scavo and Cymbrowitz, and on to Albany, ultimately leading OASAS to reverse the DOH’s decision, and leaving Cymbrowitz promising legislative changes to how such facilities win approval.

He is working on a bill that would mandate the New York City Health Department to take community objections into consideration when evaluating sites for outpatient substance abuse facilities.


The proposed location of the facility.

The owner of the controversial drug rehabilitation facility attempting to plant its flag on East 21st Street and Jerome Avenue has shot back at local leaders who’ve opposed the plan, saying that their comments mocked his own personal disability in order to score political points, and he is considering filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Igor Beregnoi, the program director of First Steps to Recovery, which ignited a turf battle as they sought to relocate from Brighton 12th Street to 2634 East 21st Street, has fired off a letter to Community Board 15 demanding that “Chairwoman [Theresa] Scavo immediately cease and desist her misleading characterizations of my disability.”

Beregnoi cited a December 10 article on Sheepshead Bites that reported on the Board’s vote to oppose the planned facility, saying that it did not belong on a residential block. In the article, Scavo was quoted saying that the owner was arrogant and disrespectful of the Board and local leaders, illustrated by the fact that he wore sunglasses throughout the meeting.

“You saw his attitude here, with the dark sunglasses, that’s how he came to a meeting trying to ask us to support, sitting there with those dark sunglasses and he wouldn’t even take them off during the meeting. And you saw his attitude here,” said at the time.

But according to Beregnoi, he suffers from a disability called photophobia, an extreme sensitivity to light, that causes him to wear sunglasses at all times. He said he sustained this injury during his military service, when a flash grenade detonated close to him.

“I am quite embarrassed by my impairment, and try to bring as little attention to it as possible. Unfortunately, Chairwoman Scavo’s forgetfulness and vocal insensitivity forces me to discuss my private health information in a very public forum,” he wrote in the letter, which he copied Sheepshead Bites on.

He also alluded to a potential complaint to the Humans Rights Commission, describing the comments as a possible “disability hate crime.”

“Friends, family and patients who are aware of my condition, are extremely angered by Chairwoman Scavo’s apparent misrepresentation of my need to wear sunglasses indoors, and are threatening to report this behavior to the Human Rights Commission as a disability hate crime,” he wrote in the letter.

Beregnoi claims that the accusations were not made in ignorance: he said he “explained briefly” that he suffers from the condition during his first meeting with Scavo and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz.

Still, he said, he hoped that Scavo was making the statements “based on forgetfulness and not malice.”

Scavo, though, said she could not have forgotten something she was never told.

She claims that he never offered an explanation for the sunglasses, and that calling that first meeting a “meeting” is very generous.

“He was sitting there and when Steve started talking about the complaints of people loitering outside [of his Brighton facility], he called us liars, got up and walked out. That was it. That was the whole meeting. There was no meeting,” she said.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz was not available to corroborate the account to Sheepshead Bites.

Still, if indeed Beregnoi does suffer from a disability, Scavo said she’s regretful of her previous comments.

“Of course. I feel horrible and it’s a terrible thing. But what has that got that to do with anything? He wants an apology? I had no idea he has any kind of eye affliction,” Scavo said.

She added that, disabled or not, she still opposes the facility and that his affliction has little to do with placing a rehabilitation center on a residential street, in a building packed with children.

“This is a very convenient way of sidestepping the issue,” she said.

View the full letter from Beregnoi to Community Board 15 after the jump.


Proposed site of First Steps to Recovery

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and the local community scored a huge victory last week, forcing the Department of Health (DOH) and the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to issue a cease-and-desist against a planned drug rehabilitation center on East 21st Street.

The clinic, First Steps to Recovery, sought to move its existing operations from Brighton 12th Street to 2634 East 21st Street. Despite being opposed by Community Board 15, Cymbrowitz, and vocal neighbors, the Department of Health issued a “contingent approval” allowing the facility to begin construction – and they never notified community leaders. In response, Cymbrowitz demanded a meeting with DOH and OASAS officials, at best described as “heated,” where he chewed them out for their negligence and threatened legislative regulations to force them to get their act together. You can read all about that here.

Following that meeting, Cymbrowitz sent a testy letter to DOH Commissioner Thomas Farley. Sheepshead Bites has obtained a copy of that letter, published in full at the end of the article.

Here’s a highlight for anyone too lazy to click through:

Even more disturbing were the numerous failures committed by your agency. At the meeting in my office, it became immediately apparent that your representatives were unaware of any issues surrounding this inappropriate location. They had no idea that the drug treatment center would occupy space in a residential building with children (a simple site visit by your agency would have revealed children’s toys on the terraces), that an elementary school is located right across the street, and that the street is too narrow to accommodate vehicles dropping off clients.

Your agency would have been aware of all of these negatives if it had paid the slightest attention to the vehement opposition expressed by Community Board 15, which echoed residents’ feelings.

Read the letter.


The proposed location.

A proposed East 21st Street drug rehabilitation center is feeling the heat, after community opposition and pressure from local leaders succeeded in getting city and state agencies to halt construction until its plans have been reexamined.

The clinic, First Steps to Recovery, is seeking to move its existing operations from Brighton 12th Street to 2634 East 21st Street. But after a heated Tuesday afternoon meeting between Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo and representatives from the city’s Department of Health and the state’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, a cease and desist was issued and the agencies agreed to reevaluate the proposed location. Cymbrowitz chided the agencies for “screwing up” and ordered them to review their application procedures – or face legislative solutions through his position as the chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

“The process is wrong. They apologized about miscommunications, but it wasn’t just miscommunication, it was a total screw up on their part and they agreed. They say they’d do better in the future but that’s not acceptable,” Cymbrowitz told Sheepshead Bites. “They didn’t do their homework, and whoever gave the landlord permission was totally off base and was wrong.”

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A poster near the proposed facility urges neighbors to call the state agency and demand a halt to construction.

Neighbors of a proposed drug rehabilitation center on East 21st Street are outraged that the landlord and center’s operator are moving ahead with construction on the space, despite vocal opposition from community leaders and the lack of a proper license from the state.

The clinic, First Steps to Recovery, is seeking to move its existing operations from Brighton Beach to East 21st Street, saying they’ve outgrown their space. The move requires approval from the state’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), who reviews applications to ensure it fits the surrounding community. But the proposal failed to pass muster at a Community Board 15 meeting in November, where the owner was lambasted for being disrespectful, and where a letter written by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz was read, claiming that it’s been a detriment to neighbors in Brighton Beach for years.

But the City appears to have shrugged off the opposition, giving First Steps the go-ahead to begin moving, contingent on further inspections.

Find out why the City gave the okay, and what local leaders are doing about it.

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

The following is an op-ed submitted by Stephen Shafer, chairperson of the Coalition Against Gambling in NY.

In November, New York voters will  have a referendum on whether the state’s constitution should be amended to permit up to seven new commercial casinos. Voters will be the target of pro-casino public relations output filled with buzzwords like “jobs” and “economic development.” These misinformation campaigns won’t reveal the vast cost of New York’s current gambling problem and why Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan, if enacted, will make it worse.

They also won’t reveal how all New Yorkers will eventually be on the hook to pay, without realizing it, the bill due from the dark side of the governor’s plan.

Pathological and problem gambling combined already costs New York taxpayers a quantifiable $3.7 billion dollars a year, besides unquantifiable havoc like family breakup or suicide. Voters should be told in depth how the governor’s plan will affect state taxpayers overall.

Yet politicians promoting casinos as public policy do not give constituents the information needed for an informed decision. No surprise. Looking at New York’s state-sponsored gambling program (the Lottery), it’s clear that for the past 40 years Albany has downplayed the impacts of problem gambling and promoted predatory gambling under the pretext of “state aid to education.”

Governor Cuomo’s recent proposal that newly legalized casinos carve out for treatment and prevention more funding than has previously been available is a token gesture. Without a legislative commitment to provide truly adequate funding, his proposed ante ($500/yr per slot or table game) shows that the state is not committed to repair decades of  neglect.

Part of being responsible is deciding what you want, and paying for it. But for decades Albany has decided that some New Yorkers (not just problem gamblers but their families and associates) are expendable, collateral damage from its gambling policies.

Four percent of adults generate 50 percent of revenues: this is the keystone statistic of the casino industry.

Those four percent are gamblers addicted or verging on addiction.  Let’s not pretend casinos truly want to stop all problem gambling – what for-profit business would agree to cut its profits by 50 percent?

There are other features of the casino business model to consider before referendum. Almost every problem and pathological gambler uses the money of trusting non-gamblers, abusing personal relationships. Anyone (they are not  few) who thinks the gamblers deserve their misery needs to  look  beyond that to the gamblers’ spouses and partners, children, parents, siblings, associates, bankers, insurance agents, neighbors, friends.  Innocent victims or dupes, they don’t deserve the misery that predatory gambling visits on them “for aid to education.”

A vote for the amendment is a vote to inflict more pain on these fellow citizens.

StephenShaferStephen Q. Shafer, MD, MPH, is the chairperson of Coalition Against Gambling in NY, a non-profit founded to oppose any expansion of  legalized gambling in New York. He was a faculty member at Columbia University and a clinical professor of neurology at Harlem Hospital Center until his retirement in 2010.

“Bullet Points” is our format for Community Board 15 meeting coverage, providing takeaways we think are important. Information in Bullet Points is meant only to be a quick summary, and some issues may be more deeply explored in future articles.

Neighbors Demand Board Rescind Support For Drug Counseling Center: Residents of East 17th Street near Kings Highway rallied at last night’s Community Board 15 meeting, demanding the Board rescind a letter of support for a proposed drug treatment facility at 1670 East 17th Street.

Led by Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association President Ed Jaworski, a group of residents took to the podium, claiming that the Board failed to inform the community that the issue would be discussed and voted on in December.

“The City Charter and the Community Board bylaws say that the Community Board should serve the community, should communicate within the community, should act as a liaison agency, should review services, should develop plans for the community. None of this was done regarding the drug center being located on East 17th Street,” Jaworski said. “What took place at the November meeting was a shortcut. It was cutting the community’s input.”

The center, One World Counseling, received a letter of support from Community Board 15 in November with a 31-4 vote. Dmitri Oster, a rep for One World, told the Board then that they intended to target immigrants in the Sheepshead Bay area who have turned to drugs to cope with cultural integration. They would offer only counseling and would not distribute medication.

Keep reading about this story, and summaries of other actions from last night’s Community Board 15 meeting.

Logo of Quick DrawThe following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, warned today that Governor Cuomo’s proposal to add ‘Quick Draw’ to 780 new locations statewide and lower the minimum age to 18 “will spell big trouble” without an increase in prevention and treatment programs for compulsive gambling.

“They don’t call it ‘video crack’ for nothing,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said of the fast-paced and highly addictive game. “The extra $25 million the state stands to gain from putting Quick Draw in convenience stores will mean a lot less if you end up with a whole new crop of addicts, especially 18- or 19-year-olds, who can’t extricate themselves from the bright lights and instant gratification of the machines.”

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz has been vocal about the state’s responsibility to address the “dark side” of gambling amid the Governor’s push to expand the industry’s visibility upstate with new gaming venues. In December 2012, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz presided over a public hearing that examined programs and services for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling and the potential impact of increased gambling on communities.

There are already an estimated one million New Yorkers who have been identified as problem gamblers, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. Data compiled by the Research Institute on Addictions in Buffalo shows that problem gambling increases in frequency during the teen years and continues to rise, reaching its highest levels in the 20s and 30s. To Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, this is precisely the audience that will find Quick Draw machines so tempting.

“This isn’t Russian Roulette. If we’re going to increase gambling opportunities, we have to do it responsibly and with a commitment to address the potential dangers,” he said.

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