Drug Policy Alliance

The opioid epidemic continues to ravage the nation and New York. Historically, New York has been at the forefront of adopting innovative public health strategies, including pioneering harm reduction approaches. Thirty years ago, faced with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, New York introduced one of the nation’s first needle exchange programs, now known as syringe service programs (SSPs). Decades of research point to their efficacy; SSP participants are five times more likely to enter drug treatment programs and three times more likely to recover from drug use than non-participants. In 2024, NYHealth awarded DPA a grant to build a unified statewide network of harm reduction providers to enhance services for New Yorkers with substance use disorders.

Under this grant, DPA will unify and activate New York’s 26 SSPs to create a collective voice that strengthens and sustains the sector for the long term. It will partner with VOCAL-NY, a grassroots membership organization, to deliver training and skills-building workshops to increase SSPs’ capacity to improve service delivery, advocate for policy change, and secure funding. DPA and its partners will also develop a shared policy agenda aimed at increasing public support and funding for SSPs and securing protections for drug-checking services.

 

 

 

New York State Defenders Association

Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) were founded in Buffalo, New York, in 2008 as a type of problem-solving court that provides treatment as an alternative to incarceration for eligible veterans with mental health or substance use disorders. VTCs offer a lifeline for veterans encountering the criminal justice system, but access to these courts was not historically universal across New York State. A law enacted in 2021 now authorizes the transfer of cases from jurisdictions without VTCs to adjacent counties that have them, but further work is needed to realize the full potential of the policy change. In 2024, NYHealth awarded the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) to work with both existing and new VTC judges and court professionals to facilitate successful case transfers. NYHealth also awarded a complementary grant to the Betty and Michael D. Wohl Veterans Legal Clinic (VLC) at Syracuse University’s College of Law to provide comprehensive legal services to VTC participants in New York State to increase their likelihood of success in treatment.

Under this grant, NYSDA will build on its extensive training network of defense attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals. It will engage six counties with a VTC and multiple contiguous counties without a VTC to facilitate the robust implementation of the transfer policy and overcome barriers. NYSDA will work to ensure smooth and legally sound case transfers, including documentation and reporting in court systems, and help judges, defense attorneys, court staff, and prosecutors who need support prior to, during, and after case transfer proceedings.

 

Betty and Michael D. Wohl Veterans Legal Clinic

Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) were founded in Buffalo, New York, in 2008 as a type of problem-solving court that provides treatment as an alternative to incarceration for eligible veterans with mental health or substance use disorders. VTCs offer a lifeline for veterans encountering the criminal justice system, but access to these courts was not historically universal across New York State. A law enacted in 2021 now authorizes the transfer of cases from jurisdictions without VTCs to adjacent counties that have them, but In 2024, NYHealth awarded the Betty and Michael D. Wohl Veterans Legal Clinic (VLC) at Syracuse University’s College of Law a grant to provide comprehensive legal services to VTC participants in New York State to increase their likelihood of success in treatment. NYHealth also awarded a complementary grant to the New York State Defenders Association to work with existing and new VTC judges and court professionals to facilitate successful case transfers.

Under this grant, the VLC will leverage a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that VTC participants have the legal services they need to support their recovery efforts. The VLC will conduct outreach to and coordinate with VTCs to incorporate legal services—covering areas such as government benefits, family law, housing, and debt management—into their treatment programs. It will also create a blueprint and provide support to other legal clinics in New York about how to replicate this model.

 

 

Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity at George Washington University

High-quality primary care is best delivered by a diverse team of professionals—including unlicensed professionals such as Medical Assistants, or MAs—who collaborate and combine skills to address the needs of patients and communities. But New York State lags other states in using MAs effectively; for example, unlike 49 other states, New York prohibits MAs from administering vaccinations. Because New York State does not license or define a scope of practice for MAs, primary care practices vary widely in how they use MAs and face barriers to using them in enhanced ways. With a 2023 NYHealth grant, the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (NYACH) and the Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity at George Washington University (GW) worked together to develop a research plan focused on variations in MA roles, barriers to expanding MA responsibilities, and MA recruitment and retention. NYACH and GW are now ready to implement the research plan. In 2024, NYHealth awarded GW a grant to assess how Medical Assistants (MAs) are used, trained, and retained within primary care teams across New York State.

Under this grant, GW will use surveys with primary care practice administrators, key informant interviews, and focus groups with MAs to yield practical ideas to inform primary care delivery and policymaking. These may include innovative models of team-based care; on-the-ground insights about policy solutions to expand MA responsibilities; gaps in training and opportunities for standardization; effective uses of State funding; and feedback on apprenticeship models and other professional development programs.

Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center

SNAP is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program. More than 1.7 million New York City residents enrolled in this program; food insecurity and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increase in demand for SNAP. NYHealth made a grant to the Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center (SNP-UJC) in 2023 to maximize SNAP enrollment for eligible New Yorkers. In 2024, NYHealth awarded SNP-UJC a grant to continue to improve the timely processing of SNAP applications for eligible and food-insecure New Yorkers.

Under this grant, SNP-UJC will continue its advocacy work and raise the voices and needs of SNAP program participants. It will work to secure the progress it achieved under the first phase of work, monitor improvements, and address remaining barriers that prevent timely enrollment to help hungry New Yorkers.

Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming

New York State’s Hudson Valley region is home to thousands of farms that produce millions of pounds of food annually. And yet, many Hudson Valley and nearby New York City residents struggle with food insecurity and lack access to nutrient-dense, fresh food. The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model is one way to create access to healthy foods supplied by local farms, but it has historically been out of reach for SNAP recipients. In 2024, NYHealth awarded the Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming a grant to provide support across a network of farms in the Hudson Valley to expand a replicable CSA program for SNAP customers.

Under this grant, Glynwood will promote outreach, scaling, and replication of the CSA is a SNAP program throughout the region and State. The program provides SNAP customers with a 1:1 matching benefit, allows them to make weekly payments, and ensures farmers receive the full cost of CSA shares for SNAP customers. It will also allow SNAP customers in the Hudson Valley and New York City to have easier access to fresh, locally grown food, and small-scale farms in the region will have new markets that improve their economic viability.

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