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Health officials urge vaccine to protect from cervical cancers

Posted 16 January 2020 at 9:57 am

Press Release, Public Health Departments in Orleans and Genesee counties

The United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. Cervical cancer develops in the cells of the cervix (the lower part of the uterus).

Most cervical cancers are related to the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that infects teens and adults. It is so common that about 14 million males and females become infected with HPV each year.

In addition to cervical cancer, HPV infection can cause vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and penile cancer in men. HPV can also cause anal cancer, cancer of the back of the throat (oropharynx), and genital warts in both men and women.

HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. It is most commonly spread by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the virus. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. You also can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected. This makes it hard to know when you first became infected.

The HPV vaccine provides safe, effective, and long-lasting protection against cancers caused by the HPV infection.

“Children who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of the HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart,” explains Brenden Bedard, Director of Community Health Services of Genesee and Orleans Counties. “Getting vaccinated on time protects preteens long before ever being exposed to the virus.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some children may need three doses of the HPV vaccine. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will need a third dose for best protection. Also, children who start the vaccine series on or after their 15th birthday need three shots given over 6 months.1

HPV vaccination provides the most benefit when given before a person is exposed to any HPV. That’s why the CDC recommends HPV vaccination at ages 11-12. The HPV vaccine is also recommended through age 26 for everyone who did not get vaccinated when they were younger. In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9, to include women and men 27-45 years of age. Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated today.

In addition to receiving the HPV vaccine, the American Cancer Society recommends that women should also get screened regularly. Beginning at age 21, women should receive a Pap test every 3 years. Starting at age 30, women have three options available for screening3:

• A Pap test alone every three years

• An HPV test alone, every five years

• Co-testing with a Pap and HPV test, every five years

Depending on the results of the Pap and/or HPV tests, healthcare providers may recommend additional screening or procedures. Talk to your healthcare provider about screening options that are right for you.

If you are over the age of 40 and do not have health insurance, the Cancer Services Program (CSP) can help men and women receive preventative cancer screenings. The CSP provides breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings and diagnostic services at no cost. For more information, please contact your local CSP at 716-278-4898.

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Association of Counties, Health officials back proposed ban on flavored e-cigarettes

Posted 2 January 2020 at 10:40 am

Press Release, NYS Association of Counties and the NYS Association of County Health Officials

As conventional cigarette use has declined in New York State, electronic cigarette use has risen, especially among adolescents and young adults. Tobacco companies use flavored e-liquid to lure young people into becoming regular users of their products.

In surveys, youth cite flavoring as one of their biggest draws to electronic cigarettes, and a majority of young people who have tried e-cigarettes first used a flavored product.

Vaping poses serious yet avoidable health risks for youth. Companies that produce vaping products take advantage of that fact that youth are attracted to the marketable technology and flavorings seen in these devices.

The rise in life-threatening vaping related illnesses, particularly among young people, highlights the need for swift action. We appreciate the Governor’s leadership in addressing this serious public health threat, particularly the inclusion of menthol flavoring in his proposed ban. The tobacco industry has traditionally marketed menthol products in communities of color and to women, and we believe it is important to include all flavorings in any ban.

We commend Governor Cuomo for proposing to ban flavored nicotine vaping products and vaping ads aimed at young people. This proposal will help to prevent tobacco companies from using flavored e-liquid to lure young people into becoming regular users of tobacco products. Counties are proud to partner with New York State in its efforts to the end the growing epidemic of youth vaping.

This news release was sent by NYSAC President John F. Marren, Chairman of Ontario County; NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario; NYSACHO President Daniel J. Stapleton, the Public Health Director in Niagara County; and NYSACHO Executive Director Sarah Ravenhall.

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GCASA has program to help compulsive gamblers

Posted 1 January 2020 at 4:13 pm

By Mike Pettinella, GCASA Publicist

Today’s society invites people to gamble.

Casinos are at every turn.

Lotteries are run by state governments.

Sports betting is a click of the mouse away.

Getting in on the horse racing action is as easy as turning on the TV.

Bombarded by messages such as “a dollar and a dream,” it’s no wonder that, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling, an estimated 2 million Americans are pathological gamblers and another 4 to 6 million people would be considered problem gamblers – those whose gambling affects their everyday lives.

In New York State, an Office of Addiction Services and Supports’ survey revealed that more than 700,000 adults struggle with a gambling problem. That’s 5 percent of the adult population.

“Just like an addiction to drugs or alcohol, they (problem gamblers) can’t stop,” said Tony Alisankus, BS, CASAC II SAP, who oversees a problem gambling treatment at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “It’s a disease that changes the neurochemistry of the brain, similar to cocaine, amphetamines or opioids.”

Also known as compulsive gambling or gambling disorder, gambling addiction is an impulse-control illness. A compulsive gambler can’t control the impulse to gamble, despite the negative consequences for that person or his or her family.

Alisankus called it “the hidden disease” because people don’t want to address it.

“And it’s not just slot machines, horses or card games,” he said. “The compulsion can show up in stock trading, lottery tickets and online gambling.”

Gambling disorder (the current terminology per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is defined as persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.

Some of the signs of gambling disorder are as follows:

• Need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement;

• Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop gambling;

• Often gambles when feeling distressed or anxious;

• Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling;

• Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

Gambling disorder can seriously affect a person’s personal well-being, employment situation and family life, Alisankus said. Fortunately, however, there is hope and help for the problem gambler.

“Like all addictions, gambling is a treatable disease,” said Alisankus, who has provided substance abuse counseling for more than 30 years and has recently attained certification in gambling disorders. “With treatment and follow-through, people can remain in remission.”

The program at GCASA offers various methods of evidence-based treatment, including Dialectal Behavior Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (skills-based therapies for patients to find a better way to think and cope) and Motivational Interviewing.

It also offers treatment for family members affected by the loved one’s disorder, referrals to Gambler’s Anonymous, GAMANON and not-for-profit credit/financial counseling.

Alisankus said the initial step for the problem gambler in either Genesee or Orleans County – or for someone who may be at risk of escalating his or her gambling activities – is to call GCASA at 585-343-1124 to set up an assessment appointment (those take place on Mondays at 4 p.m. in Batavia).

Should a potential patient have transportation issues or can’t meet at that time, procedures are in place for a special appointment to be made – either in Batavia or at the Albion clinic.

From there, Alisankus will use standardized criteria to assess the patient’s level of gambling disorder, which could vary from mild to moderate to severe to persistent to episodic.

The program at GCASA is free to all those seeking help.

Additional support is available through the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center in Buffalo, which has a working relationship with GCASA.

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Health Departments donating to sock drive this holiday season to raise awareness for Hepatitis C

Posted 29 December 2019 at 7:22 pm

Genesee, Orleans & Wyoming Public Health Column

Provided photo: Tammi Bale of Clarendon has collected socks the past four years in memory of her son, Robert Bale. She donates them to the Open Door Mission in Rochester.

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis C, but early diagnosis of Hepatitis C is important as it can prevent serious liver problems.

Approximately 3.2 million people in the U.S. have chronic Hepatitis C, but most do not know that they are infected. This is exactly why testing is so important!

Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person, even in amounts too small to see.  People with Hepatitis C often have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can be a sign of advanced liver disease (such as cirrhosis or scarring of the liver).

“Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading cause of liver transplants,” stated Brenden Bedard, deputy director of Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

New treatments for Hepatitis C are available and more are in development. Today, chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is usually curable with oral medications taken every day for two to six months. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “The homeless population is disproportionately impacted by HCV infection, with an estimated prevalence of 22% to 53% percent.” (Dan, 2018).

Hepatitis C testing is recommended if you,

• Were born from 1945 through 1965

• Injected drugs

• Received donated blood or organs before 1992

• Have been exposed to blood on the job through a needle stick injury with a sharp object

• Have medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease or HIV/AIDS

To increase awareness about Hepatitis C, the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments are donating socks to Tammi Bale who operates the “Just Socks, Ma” Campaign, collecting socks to donate to those in need in memory of her son Robert Bale who passed away of a drug overdose in 2016.

“These socks read #NYCuresHepC and is a reminder to get tested and that a cure is available to those who need it,” Bedard said. “It’s a small way to give back to the community this holiday season and increase a valuable message.”

Bale has done an annual sock drive the past four years. Last year she donated 1,583 pairs to the Open Door Mission in Rochester. She does the sock drive in memory of her son, who was 28 when he died.

“I wasn’t able to help him because I didn’t know anything was wrong (substance use disorder),” she said. “He had a good job, was working 50 hours a week and had just gotten a raise. No one knew his secret, not even his roommate. It’s good to try to find out what is happening in your child’s life so this doesn’t happen. This campaign makes me happy and will hopefully make Robert proud.”

Tammi is also giving back by operating a Facebook group named “Angel Mothers Unite” providing uplifting messages to those who need it.

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Governor to propose banning flavored nicotine vaping products, vaping ads aimed at youth

Posted 29 December 2019 at 1:52 pm

‘Vaping is a public health crisis, claiming too many lives and making countless others sick in a short period of time.’ – Gov. Cuomo said.

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the 15th proposal of his 2020 State of the State agenda: legislation banning all flavored nicotine vaping products including menthol flavors and vaping advertisements aimed at youth.

The legislation would also authorize the State Department of Health to regulate the sale of chemicals used in vaping-related products and ban the sale of vaping product carrier oils deemed to be a public health risk.

Finally, the legislation would prohibit the online, phone and mail order sale of e-cigarettes; only registered retailers would be allowed to purchase e-cigarettes using those methods.

“Vaping is a public health crisis, claiming too many lives and making countless others sick in a short period of time,” Governor Cuomo said. “The problem is made worse by unscrupulous vaping companies who are targeting young people with candy flavored products like Cotton Candy and Bubble-gum and other marketing ploys. While the federal administration continues its empty rhetoric on an issue impacting more than a quarter of all high school students, in New York we’re using every tool at our disposal to keep help children safe and stop them from forming an unhealthy and potentially deadly lifelong addiction.”

Ban the Sale of Flavored Nicotine Vaping Products

The Governor will introduce legislation banning the sale of all flavored nicotine vaping products, including menthol — an extension of the State’s ongoing efforts to reduce youth use of both tobacco and vaping products. Nearly 40 percent of 12th grade students and 27 percent of all high school students are now using e-cigarettes, with this increase largely driven by flavored e-liquids used in vaping devices. With this ban New York continues to lead the charge on limiting the use of flavorings in all vaping products and provide critical support to local communities who are fighting this growing epidemic.

Restrict Vaping Ads Targeted to Youth

In addition to restricting the sale of flavors that appeal to kids, the Governor’s legislation will ban all vaping-related ads targeted to youth, including those in more traditional forms of advertising such as newspapers and magazines, as well as in digital formats in periodicals, social media and on websites with significant youth viewership. Advertisers will also not be allowed to make vaping product safety claims or pitch vaping products as smoking cessation options without FDA-approval.

Ban Harmful Unregulated Carrier Oils

Following the alarming number of hospitalizations and deaths involving patients who had reported a history of using e-cigarettes or vaping products, Vitamin E acetate — which is sometimes used as an e-liquid diluent — has been identified as a chemical of concern. In order to quickly respond to the proliferation of these dangerous, untested and unregulated chemicals used in vaping related products, the Governor will also advance legislation to empower the Department of Health to ban the sale of vaping carrier oils that include chemicals or ingredients that when inhaled through a vaping device are deemed to be dangerous and a significant public health risk.

Limit Online Sale of Vaping Products

The current sale of e-liquids and e-cigarettes through online, phone and mail order allows underage youth to purchase products unlawfully and circumvent sales taxes. Therefore, the Governor will advance legislation restricting the online, phone and mail order sale of e-liquids and e-cigarettes only to licensed vaping product retailers. Only registered retailers would be allowed to purchase e-cigarettes using those methods. This restriction, which already applies to the sale of conventional tobacco products, will help stop the illegal sale of dangerous vaping products to underage purchasers.

Governor Cuomo has taken unprecedented steps to ensure the health and safety of all New Yorkers by combatting the use of harmful tobacco and nicotine products. In 2017, Governor Cuomo expanded the Clean Indoor Air Act to prohibit e-cigarette use in nearly every workplace to protect workers and the public from harmful secondhand tobacco smoke and vaping aerosols.

In 2019, e-liquid retailers were required to register with the Department of Taxation and Finance and a 20 percent sales tax on e-liquids will be imposed. In November of 2019, the legal age for purchasing tobacco and e-cigarette products was raised to 21, further discouraging youth from accessing the products.  Moreover, at the Governor’s direction, DTF will triple the number of regulatory inspections of retailers authorized to sell tobacco products from 2018.

Governor proposes website to compare healthcare and hospital costs

Posted 28 December 2019 at 9:07 am

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled the 14th proposal of his 2020 State of the State agenda – increasing transparency in healthcare costs.

Under this proposal, Governor Cuomo will direct the Department of Health, the Department of Financial Services and the New York State Digital and Media Services Center – a joint enterprise of the Office of Information Technology Services and Office of General Services – to create a consumer-friendly website, called NYHealthcareCompare, where New Yorkers can easily compare the cost and quality of healthcare procedures at hospitals around the state.

The platform will also provide consumers with educational resources designed to help consumers know their rights including financial assistance options, what to do about a surprise bill and more.

“New York has made tremendous progress protecting consumers from unreasonably expensive medical care,” Governor Cuomo said. “But the cost of many healthcare procedures has risen in recent years in part because consumers don’t have an easy way to compare prices at different hospitals in their area. This new website will give New Yorkers the facts they need to make informed decisions about the cost and quality of healthcare procedures – helping increase competition in the marketplace and driving down prices.”

Governor Cuomo has taken nation-leading steps to protect consumers from high medical costs. In 2014, the Governor signed first-in-the-nation legislation to protect consumers from surprise bills for out-of-network costs, and in 2019 the Governor signed legislation further extending these protections. Governor Cuomo has also supported making information about healthcare services available to the public. With the development of the All Payer Database system, New York is entering a new era of cutting-edge healthcare research and transparency in healthcare costs and delivery.

However, the burden of healthcare costs is increasingly falling to consumers, and there are increasing demands for reliable information for decisions, especially for planned services where there is a choice. The cost of planned services can vary widely within a region.

For consumers to be empowered to shop for healthcare services, consumers first need to be aware that there is a trusted source of information that is presented in a user-friendly and accessible way. Existing information is scattered across websites. Consumers cannot easily find what they are looking for, leading them to give up on finding the information they need.

This new website will allow consumers to easily shop for healthcare services and understand their rights all in one site, empowering New Yorkers to become educated consumers of healthcare services and choose the healthcare facility that fits their needs. The website would also enable consumers to:

• See cost, quality and volume data by specific hospital;

• Search by medical procedure costs;

• Search affordability questions; and

• Search laws and programs to help New Yorkers with medical bills, health insurance complaints, hospital complaints and practitioner/provider complaints.

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Medina hospital donating ER equipment to health center in Virgin Islands

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 20 December 2019 at 1:07 pm

Medina site makes an upgrade and gives used glidescope to health center

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Kaitlyn Miller, Emergency Room director at Medina Memorial Hospital, and Emergency Room physician Dr. Joseph De James discuss the hospital’s donation of a glidescope to the Virgin Islands. De James has also worked for 19 years at a health center in the Virgin Islands, where he will deliver the medical equipment.

MEDINA – When the category five Hurricane Irma hit the Virgin Islands in 2017, many of the country’s health resources were destroyed.

Thanks to a doctor who works in the Emergency Room at Medina Memorial Hospital, a health center in the country will receive some much-needed medical equipment

Dr. Joseph De James, who not only works in the ER at Medina Memorial Hospital, has also worked at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center in the Virgin Islands for 19 years.

Recently, Orleans Community Health received a grant from New York State to purchase a new glidescope, which according to Cindy Perry, director of education, marketing and outreach, is a device used for airway management in emergency situations.

De James will deliver the donated glidescope to the health center in the Virgin Islands.

“It will be a lifesaving piece of equipment,” De James said.

Rebuilding the health system’s resources has been a difficult challenge for the Virgin Islands after the devastation left by the hurricane, the doctor said. Most of the economy is based on tourism that they are slowly rebuilding. After losing continual access to health care and support networks, there has also been a spike in ER visits. The donation of this equipment will help the residents of the island, as well as tourists, De James explained.

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Governor tells insurers to cover vaping cessation treatments

Posted 12 December 2019 at 2:40 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced further action to address the growing threat of e-cigarette use, with measures to combat the increasing number of vaping-related illnesses. As part of these efforts, the Department of Financial Services today issued guidance advising New York insurers that they must cover the costs associated with most vaping cessation – without co-pays, coinsurance, and deductibles – using the same treatments recommended for smoking cessation.

“E-cigarette use has exploded in recent years and many of the people who want to quit are now having trouble because vaping is more addicting than they previously thought,” Governor Cuomo said. “New Yorkers trying to stop vaping need access to treatment, and this action will require insurance companies to provide the same coverage they would for smoking cessation to anyone seeking to stop using e-cigarettes.”

As of Dec. 3, there were 2,291 cases of e-cigarette-associated lung injury reported to the Centers for Disease Control from 50 states, and 48 deaths have been confirmed in 25 states, including here in New York, where a second death due to a vaping-associated illness was reported on Nov. 20.

To combat this growing problem, Governor Cuomo has taken several actions, including banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in New York, warning New Yorkers against e-cigarette use, and directing the New York State Department of Health to investigate companies that produce vaping substances and require smoke and vape shops to post warnings advising New Yorkers of the health risks – all while the federal government stalls on banning e-cigarettes.

According to the circular letter issued today, because e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and people who vape may become addicted to nicotine, insurers should provide coverage for vaping cessation treatment using methods recommended for smoking cessation, including screening, behavioral interventions and FDA-approved pharmacotherapy for adults and behavioral interventions for school-aged children and adolescents, as appropriate.

“Insurers must adapt to address emerging issues in public health and that includes vaping, which is growing in use including among teenagers causing illnesses and even deaths,” said Financial Services Superintendent Linda A. Lacewell. “Insurers must cover vaping cessation in the same way they cover services for smoking cessation, and do so without cost-sharing.”

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GOW Opioid Task Force has a new leader

Posted 9 December 2019 at 4:04 pm

Press Release, GCASA

Christen Ferraro

BATAVIA – Christen Ferraro has been hired by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse as project coordinator of the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force.

GCASA Executive Director John Bennett announced the appointment of Ferraro, who received her bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences Interdisciplinary with a concentration in community and mental health from the University of Buffalo earlier this year.

A Batavia High School graduate, Ferraro said she recently moved back to Batavia from Buffalo and is excited to connect with task force stakeholders in the tri-county area.

“I missed the community and am thankful to be able to have a role in bringing agencies and people together to take on this epidemic,” Ferraro said. “Our goal is to continue the momentum that Allison (Parry-Gurak) has developed.”

Ferraro is replacing Parry-Gurak, who accepted the director of treatment position at GCASA’s Albion clinic.

As part of her college program, Ferraro served as an intern with the Genesee-Orleans Youth Bureau from August 2018 through May 2019, assisting with event planning, supervision, Youth Court and Youth Lead.

The GOW Opioid Task Force currently has over 350 members from across the tri-county region.

Members represent various sectors of the community, including public health, mental health, human services, local government, substance use disorder treatment and recovery agencies, law enforcement, EMS, faith-based groups, health systems and medical practitioners, education, businesses, concerned individuals, families, and individuals in recovery.

The task force project coordinator oversees six “work groups” – access to care, community education, data, family & loved ones, law enforcement and Naloxone, and two sub-committees – hospital policies and faith-based – and provides periodic progress reports to a steering committee.

For more information about the GOW Task Force, go to

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NY sees opioid overdose drop last year, first decrease since 2009

Posted 9 December 2019 at 3:55 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that opioid overdose deaths among New York State residents, outside New York City, declined 15.9 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, the first decrease in 10 years.

While close to 2,000 people tragically died from opioid overdoses last year, the decrease remains a significant milestone and is the result of several aggressive actions taken the past several years to combat opioid addiction.

These actions are outlined in the new Heroin and Opioid Task Force Progress Report detailing three years of work and improvements to expand and enhance services aimed at combatting the opioid crisis. The Task Force recommendations were signed into law in 2016.

“New York’s first reduction in opioid overdose deaths in over ten years is an important milestone and demonstrates our work to combat this deadly scourge is working,” Governor Cuomo said. “And while New York has taken the most aggressive actions to combat the opioid crisis of any other state in the country, the opioid epidemic continues to devastate too many families and we will not rest until we put an end to it once and for all.”

After years of rising opioid-related overdoses deaths among New York State residents, 2018 finally saw a drop, from 2,170 deaths in 2017, to 1,824 deaths – a 15.9 percent decrease – according to preliminary State Health Department data covering areas outside New York City. Furthermore, hospitalizations for opioid related overdoses decreased 7.1 percent – from 3,260 in 2017 to 3,029 in 2018. Overdose deaths, hospitalization and other data are included in the most recent New York State County Opioid Quarterly Report, available here.

(Editor’s Note: In Orleans County the overdose deaths increased from 4 in 2017 to 6 in 2018, according the state data. The number of emergency room visits due to opioid overdoses increased from 36 in 2017 to 40 last year.

The state report also says the number of Orleans County residents admitted to certified chemical dependence programs for opioid addiction increased from 224 in 2017 to 234 in 2018.

The state also tracks how many times Naloxone is administered by EMS and law enforcement. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, helps stop an overdose. Naloxone was administered 48 times in 2017 by EMS in Orleans, and 30 times in 2018. Naloxone was administered 1 time by law enforcement in 2017 and 13 times in 2018, according to the state report.)  

The progress announced today is the direct result of recommendations from the New York State Heroin and Opioid Task Force, which Governor Cuomo convened in 2016. The Governor reconvened the Task Force in his 2019 State of the State proposals. Co-Chaired by Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul and Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez, the Task Force proposed new, non-traditional services, including recovery centers, youth clubhouses, expanded peer services, Centers of Treatment Innovation, mobile treatment, telehealth and 24/7 open access centers, which provide immediate assessments and referrals to care. These services have since been established in numerous communities around the state and have helped people in need access care closer to where they live.

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