Initiative Will Send Peer Advocates Into New York City Homeless Shelters to Connect Residents to Addiction Treatment and Support Services
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new initiative to help connect homeless New Yorkers to addiction treatment services. Through the initiative, New York State Certified Recovery Peer Advocates will meet people at homeless shelters in New York City who are struggling with addiction, work to get them engaged in treatment, and provide brief interventions and connections to treatment services. The effort is part of the Governor's five-year, $10.4 billion Housing Plan to address homelessness as well as his multi-prong approach to combatting addiction.
"Substance abuse and addiction are major factors in homelessness and it critical that we invest in support services to help these individuals get their lives on track," Governor Cuomo said. "We can help vulnerable New Yorkers break this cycle by engaging them in treatment and recovery options to get one step closer to living healthy and independent lives."
Homeless individuals are more likely than the public at large to suffer from a substance use disorder. Two-thirds of individuals that are homeless report that substance abuse was a major cause of their becoming homeless. Conversely, drugs and alcohol can be used by some as an escape mechanism for vulnerable populations including people experiencing homelessness. Instead of providing an actual escape, substance abuse only adds to the difficulty of their circumstances.
"We cannot leave people out in the cold when it comes to treatment and recovery," said Lieutenant Governor Hochul, co-chair of the Governor's task force to combat heroin and opioid addiction. "Everyone deserves access to lifesaving supports and this new initiative will help people in homeless shelters start down the path to recovery and independence. This is one additional weapon to the already full arsenal of treatment and support services in New York's war against addiction."
Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "Breaking the grip of addiction is difficult under the best circumstances, but it is especially challenging for those without the stability of a home.By engaging peer advocates in the shelter setting, we can reach people struggling with substance use disorder and establish a personal connection that can lead them to treatment services and life in recovery."
Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Samuel D. Roberts said, "Governor Cuomo has made a strong commitment to addressing homelessness by not only creating safe and reliable housing, but also by providing vital supportive services. This initiative will help individuals address the circumstances that have contributed to their homelessness while changing their lives for the better."
Senator George Amedore, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse said, "It's critically important that everyone be able to get the help they need to overcome addiction. This initiative builds on the State's strong commitment to ensuring the most vulnerable members of our communities have access to the support services they need."
Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse said, ""Many homeless New Yorker struggle with substance use disorder and metal health issues. It's vital that we invest in aggressive outreach to this vulnerable population to connect with them treatment and recovery services. Housing is vital to recovery, and additionally we must ensure that all New Yorkers have access to safe, stable and sober housing."
The Certified Recovery Peer Advocates will be employed by OASAS certified providers and paid with Medicaid funds at the rates set for clinic operators. Recent changes in regulation and federal Medicaid billing approvals allow providers to be reimbursed for peer and clinical services delivered "in community" - or outside a clinical setting. The Certified Recovery Peer Advocate program employs people in recovery from substance use disorder who have expertise in addiction services. Certified Peers conduct outreach to people struggling with addiction to help them acknowledge their disorders and link them to the most appropriate level of care. Peers also provide support, encouragement and guidance through the treatment process and into recovery. Because they often engage people who are not ready to talk with professional and clinical staff, peers may be the first introduction people have to treatment and recovery.
The Governor launched the five-year Housing Plan in 2016 and committed $2.6 billion to create new supportive housing units and $7.8 billion to continue operating existing supportive housing units, shelter beds, and other homeless services. As part of the Housing Plan, the Governor created the New York State Interagency Council on Homelessness and tasked providers, local governments and State agencies including OASAS to explore solutions to homelessness. One of the Council's early actions was to establish a training and technical assistance collaboration between OASAS and the New York City Department of Homeless Services on how to help shelter operators and treatment providers more effectively deliver services to the city's shelter population. The new peer advocate initiative is a concrete example of the collaboration's work.
Visit www.combatheroin.ny.gov for more information on addressing heroin and prescription opioid abuse, including a Kitchen Table Tool Kit to help start the conversation about the warning signs of addiction and where to get help. For tools to use in talking to a young person about preventing alcohol or drug use, visit the State's Talk2Prevent website.
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