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Friday, July 10, 2009


Kerlikowske and State Leaders Discuss Strategies to Overcome Addiction

National Drug Czar R. Gil Kerlikowske today met with State Agency Commissioners at a New York treatment program for parolees to discuss strategies on combating addiction by using treatment rather than incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders as outlined under Rockefeller Drug Law Reform.

White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Kerlikowske also presided over the inaugural Addictions Collaborative to Improve Outcomes for New York (ACTION) Council meeting at the Edgecombe Residential Treatment Facility, which operates a 30-day program that is administered by treatment provider, Odyssey House.

Director Kerlikowske visited New York for a first-hand look at the future of addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery, meeting with the state agency leaders who make up the ACTION Council on strategies to better identify, treat and prevent addiction.

ONDCP Director Kerlikowske said, “It is exciting to see New York State leadership come together in recognition of how substance abuse and addiction impact so many aspects of our communities. The Governor has convened a group to organize public and private sector leaders in public health, safety, education, and other fields to reduce drug use and its consequences. I look forward to hearing about the tremendous progress this ACTION Council will make in New York, and how the Council can serve as a model at the local, State, and Federal levels.”

The ACTION Council brings the public health, safety, welfare and education sectors together to address the many consequences of addiction. Thanks to Governor David A. Paterson’s charge, the ACTION initiative will help better coordinate practices by using evidence-based approaches to treat addiction, reduce duplication of services and increase positive outcomes. The ACTION Council is committed to reforming New York’s system of care--keeping the needs of people first and coordinating resources so that they are most effectively and efficiently used.
Coordinated by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the Council includes commissioners from 20 state agencies who collaborate with non-governmental stakeholders, community-based organizations, addiction treatment providers, academic institutions and businesses. The Council will consult with the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys who work in drug courts and will help assess whether treatment programs for diverted offenders are sufficiently available and effective.
OASAS Commissioner Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo said, “Addiction affects us all—the 2.5 million New Yorkers suffering, the friends and family, the taxpayers, the addictions and public health professionals attempting to fight the good fight. Addiction cuts across every system in New York. We are here today to give all New Yorkers a promise of collaboration—a promise to work together to establish effective, evidence-based strategies to address the disease of addiction, so that we may foster long-term recovery, improve lives, improve outcomes, and see a safer, healthier New York.”

Department of Correctional Services Commissioner Brian Fischer, whose agency runs Edgecombe, said, “By providing an intensive, residential treatment program rather than a much more expensive and lengthy return to prison for non-violent offenders whose main issue is addiction, the Edgecombe model embodies the drug law reforms Governor Paterson long championed before finally being able to sign them into law this year. It is appropriate that the ACTION Council is holding its first meeting at Edgecombe, and I hope Edgecombe’s example resonates with my fellow Council members – and Director Kerlikowske - as we work together to find effective solutions to the addiction problem that afflicts so many people.”

Deputy Secretary to the Governor for Public Safety and Division of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Denise E. O’Donnell, said “All too often, those of us who work in the criminal justice system deal with the fallout from addiction, whether it is a dependence on alcohol, drugs or gambling. Individuals commit crimes to fuel their addictions or while under the influence of them, and drug and alcohol addiction are serious barriers to an offender’s ability to adjust to life outside of prison. By creating the ACTION Council, Governor Paterson is acutely aware that no one agency – or government alone – holds the key to solving this problem. I look forward to working with my colleagues in state government and the non-profit and private sector to develop real solutions that will improve the health, safety and welfare of all New Yorkers.”

Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of the Division of Parole Andrea W. Evans said, “Governor Paterson is to be commended for this collaborative approach to treating addiction. All too often, addiction leads to criminal activity which could have been prevented if substance abuse was not a factor. Bringing all of these agencies and organizations together to collectively address addiction at all levels will ultimately lead to safer communities.”

As the treatment provider for this model collaborative program, Odyssey House President Peter Provet, Ph.D., said his agency "is pleased to bring a cutting-edge, intensive clinical intervention to a population at high risk of relapse. Addiction is now recognized as a chronic relapsing disorder - this innovative program is treating relapse instead of punishing it."

Eighty percent, or 47,200 of the individuals currently in the state prison system, have a history of substance abuse and need treatment.

Edgecombe’s 30-day program is an innovative, treatment alternative to a three-month to two-year return to prison.

Edgecombe, which provides drug intervention, drug prevention and cognitive behavior programs as well as group and individual counseling, is open to men released from prison who are under parole or post-release supervision within New York City. It can house up to 100 men and provides treatment through Odyssey House, an OASAS-certified provider. Each detainee receives a full evaluation for treatment and an individual treatment plan.

Rockefeller/Sentencing Reform is an important change in the addiction field. Judges will now have the ability to divert people with addictions to community-based treatment rather than mandate them to prison. Under the watchful eye of Drug Court judges, participants will attend treatment, be tested for drugs and alcohol, and receive case management and access to other needed services. This model has been highly successful in New York. The Governor and State Legislature recognized its effectiveness and specified that Drug Courts are our preferred method of Diversion.

OASAS oversees one of the nation's largest addiction services systems dedicated to Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, with more than 1,550 programs serving over 110,000 New Yorkers on any given day. Through efforts such as the Your Story Matters campaign at, the agency hopes to foster a movement of recovery, one that sheds the stigma and promotes a life of health and wellness.

Addiction is a chronic disease and New Yorkers need to know that help and hope is available. Individuals can get help by calling the toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day a week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY. For more information, visit