Today, Council Member Joseph C. Borelli (R-South Shore) announced that he is introducing a two-part legislative package which focuses on the availability of substance abuse prevention services in schools and the overall long-term effectiveness of publicly funded inpatient and outpatient programs.
The first part of the legislative package would require the New York City Department of Education to track outcomes of its substance abuse prevention and intervention specialist (SAPIS) program in order to quantify its effectiveness and whether it is useful in deterring drug use at a multitude of grade levels. Borelli believes the data will indicate that professional counseling programs in lower grades lead to positive outcomes as children grow, and thus counseling services should be required at all middle schools, certain elementary schools, and proportionally in high schools based on the schools population and need.
Borelli will also sponsor a resolution, which calls upon the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to reevaluate the way in which it quantifies and reports outcomes in the state’s publicly funded inpatient and outpatient facilities. Currently, addiction programs report results upon each patient’s completion of a program, and not the long-term success. Borelli is hoping for a new system which tracks patient sobriety at either the three or five year mark. This data would be used by public decision-makers to determine how funds are best allocated to the most successful recovery programs, and it could also potentially give consumers the opportunity to see accurate statistics about any program they are considering for themselves or a loved one.
“In an age where data drives nearly all decisions the City of New York makes, from policing to tree trimming, it’s strange to think that our metrics on addiction are this antiquated,” said Borelli. “This bill came out of an original idea to have the city department of health evaluate and rate city-funded recovery programs with the notion that it should not continue to fund its least successful recovery programs at the expense of its most successful ones. Unfortunately, there is no objective data out available that could even tell us which programs work best in the long run. If an addict is funneled into the same program time and time again with no positive outcome, we should be able to better evaluate the services provided or the their placement in it. Right now, we can’t do that accurately. I believe this data will indicate a need for more inpatient beds, more involved follow-up services, and better mental health counseling.”
Borelli continued, “Additionally, we know that students in younger grades are talking to each other about drugs. We need to ensure that they are also being spoken to by professional counselors who can identify potential problems before they grow. We believe the SAPIS program is successful, but unless there is a way to track outcomes and align it with public health data, we can’t prove their need. The goal of this is to ensure that schools, which could benefit from substance abuse specialists be required to have them.”
“Our SAPIS worker, in an elementary school, has worked with our third, fourth and fifth grade students to build our student’s self-esteem, engage them in activities that enhanced their decision making abilities and provided technical information to students in an age appropriate manner,” said Elmer Myers, Principal of P.S. 3. “She has become an integral member of our team and students look to her for guidance and support. Especially during this time of significant numbers of overdoses, engaging students and educating them at such an early age is critical.”
“Councilman Borelli’s recommendations are intelligent and well thought out plans to increase the effectiveness of addiction treatment and prevention services,” said Luke Nasta, Executive Director of Camelot Counseling. “The public school system is the one place where children are required to attend by law. It is therefore the ideal opportunity to provide both prevention and early intervention services. The more focus we give to our children on the deadly problem the better armed we will be to fight off the contagious plague.”
Nasta continued, “Treatment providers have for multiple decades requested resources be made available for follow-up studies to prove their efficacy. Traditionally all taxpayer dollar support has gone into direct care for the afflicted and their family members. It has been a significant failure of government to overlook research tools. I applaud Councilman Borelli’s progressive thinking and actions.”