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.”