Archive for the tag 'drug addiction'

Source: Doug88888/Flickr

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

Despite the sharp rise in heroin abuse and the continuing scourge of prescription painkiller addiction among a broad demographic, New York State is not properly equipped to address the opiate addiction crisis, says Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said the budget for the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has remained “flat” for several years and, remarkably, there is no funding directly related to opiate abuse in the 2014-1015 executive budget. “Although there is reinvestment in this budget, there are little details how it will be distributed or what kind of services it will provide,” he said.

While New York State has made major strides in the battle against prescription drug abuse, a shift from prescription opioid to heroin abuse has resulted in a rise of treatment admissions across the state, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. The Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse is asking for $5 million to expand access to and capacity for treatment of opiate abuse, another $5 million to expand school-based prevention programs, and $5 million to expand community-based detoxification services.

A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Cymbrowitz (A.8591) would establish the Community Chemical Dependency Services Expansion Program, which would take advantage of savings that the state realizes as behavioral health services transition into managed care and the utilization of medically managed detoxification services declines. The program would distribute these funds to community based providers.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz also co-sponsored legislation (A.8637) to increase the availability of Naloxone, sometimes referred to as the drug overdose antidote. When administered in a timely fashion, Naloxone counteracts the life threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system caused by an opioid or heroin overdose.

In 2005, the state authorized non-medical persons to administer Naloxone to an individual in order to prevent an opioid or heroin overdose from becoming fatal. Currently, parents and family members of addicts are being turned away from Naloxone training programs or are attending the programs and not receiving Naloxone due to the shortage of prescribers participating in such programs. “Due to the increase of opioid abuse, expanded access to Naloxone has become necessary priority to save lives,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

In Nassau County, EMTs administer Naloxone through their police department’s ambulance services and in Suffolk County the state provided first responders with Naloxone. “Expanding upon the success of existing programs, more lives could be saved if Naloxone were available to addicts, their families and other people likely to be in a position to assist a person at risk of an opioid related overdose,” he said.

“Under this legislation, one prescriber would be able to issue a non-patient specific order to numerous programs, allowing for increased access. This legislation will give the person who is likely to discover an overdose victim the ability to save their life, a life that could otherwise be lost if the victim has to wait for the EMT to arrive,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

In testimony by the NYS Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers during a recent budget hearing in Albany, executive director John Coppola noted that overdose deaths related to prescription painkillers increased 233% between 2000 and 2012, while heroin-related overdose deaths also increased 84% between 2010 and 2012 in NYC after four years on the decline, according to a NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene report.

“The number of overdose deaths in New York State now exceeds motor vehicle related deaths. This staggering loss of life demands bold leadership and action from New York’s elected officials,” Coppola said.

The 2012-2013 State Fiscal Year Enacted Budget established the prescription pain medication awareness program. Another major initiative to help New York protect its citizens from the consequences of prescription drug abuse is the Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing Act, known as I-STOP, enacted in 2012. “This seminal legislation tracks controlled substance prescribing, prevents doctor shopping and weeds out unscrupulous doctors. One unfortunate side effect of successfully restricting street access to these controlled substances is that addicts are turning to other drugs, such as heroin,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

“Without treatment readily available, the public health costs will be severe for New York State — and the human toll even more so,” he said.

Source: Humans of New York via Facebook

Source: Humans of New York via Facebook

The Facebook account associated with the incredibly popular Humans of New York photoblog ran the above photo on Tuesday, with the subject quoted as saying he participates in an “underground fighting league in Coney Island” run by “the Russians.”

Here’s the full caption:

“The Russians run an underground fighting league in Coney Island where they pay junkies to fight. I fought about fifty fights for them. They pay you $200 win or lose. They’d always make sure I was real doped up before the fight. I mean they weren’t good people but it did make me feel kinda important to have all those gangsters cheering for me. And they’d always be really happy if I won, because that meant I’d made them money.”

The post received quite a bit of attention from our Facebook readers, but no one seems particularly confident the story is true. One reader writes that the fighting league’s existence would be unlikely to stay so secret in the otherwise gossipy Russian community.

“There would be rumors. In all my years in this community I have never heard anything remote to this,” the reader wrote.

Can anyone back this up?


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.”

Continue Reading »


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.

“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.

Community Board 15 voted in favor of permitting one drug rehabilitation center in the neighborhood, but voted down another, saying that the owners’ attitudes made all the difference.

At the November 27 meeting, the Board gave the nod to One World Counseling, a newly-formed entity proposing to develop a drug and alcohol abuse treatment center at 1670 East 17th Street, just off Kings Highway. The Board’s 31-4 vote came just minutes after nixing plans of an existing center, First Steps to Recovery at 2990 Brighton 12th Street, to move to 2634 East 21st Street, with a no vote of 34-1.

During the hearing for First Steps, representatives for the outpatient addiction treatment clinic explained that they served “elderly” Eastern European patients who have turned to drugs or alcohol to cope with the struggles of integration. The clinic dispenses medications and has been operating in Brighton Beach since 2002. They were seeking to move to the 2634 East 21st Street location because their current space is too small.

Continue Reading »