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Advocating for the Field

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Advocating for the Field

While the federal government sets larger policy goals for substance use services across the country, much of the funding implementation and policy fulfillment occur at the state level. This means that – like all states – New York has substantial influence on its substance use treatment programs.

In recognition of this, Caz Recovery has prioritized statewide advocacy throughout the last couple of years. Ed Cichon, our Director of Marketing and Communications, coordinates our advocacy efforts, and he has leaned heavily on the guidance provided by associations like the Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers of New York State (ASAP) and the New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. Ed also serves as the Public Policy Chair of the Western New York Chemical Dependency Consortium (WNYCDC).

Collaborating with Other Providers

A central approach to Ed’s advocacy has been collaborating with and learning from other providers. He’s participated in ASAP’s public policy retreats since 2018. These meetings involve reaching consensus with providers across the state on the public policy priorities for the upcoming year.

These days, he’s in constant conversation with our statewide partners over frequent public policy Zoom meetings and phone conferences organized by ASAP and the NYS Council. “It’s been great to see the collaboration and communication between providers across New York,” Ed explained. “We weathered the most intense crisis we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes because we stuck together.”

As the Public Policy Chair of the WNYCDC, Ed integrates the advocacy goals of ASAP and the NYS Council at local level with fellow providers in Western New York. He’s helped to coordinate local letter-writing campaigns to elected officials on funding for the field and has developed relationships with the offices of local legislators. Throughout 2020, Ed had contacts with over a dozen local offices.

The New York State Capitol Building in Albany
The New York State Capitol Building in Albany

Advocacy Successes and Plans

Caz Recovery’s focus on advocacy prior to 2020 was especially prescient as last year turned out to be one of the most challenging public policy environments in generations due to the pandemic and its economic impacts.

A major initiative last year involved providing feedback to OASAS on the governor’s 20% funding withholds for the field. Over the summer, Ed and many other providers were featured in multiple media highlights locally. Together, they discussed the dangers that these withholds would bring in the middle of the opioid epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, the withholds were withdrawn for residential and other services in the fall of last year, and we just received word this week that funding will be restored to all other providers across the sector very soon. We’re grateful for Arlene González-Sánchez, OASAS Commissioner, Trisha Schell-Guy, OASAS General Counsel, and our other partners at OASAS for continuing to advocate for providers regarding the withholds over the last few months.

Even though 2020 was challenging, 2021 will likely bear the brunt of COVID’s economic repercussions. As such, this year in particular is going to be critical in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the sector. With the current budget crisis, our advocacy efforts will be more important than ever.

New York State’s legislative session is already underway, and Caz Recovery will be monitoring the areas that will impact the field for decades to come. This is especially true for the prospect of marijuana legalization and the disbursement of funds from opioid settlements. The next few years certainly won’t be easy. Thanks to our partners across New York State, however, we know collaborating on advocacy efforts will help us all to succeed together.

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