(NYT 2018) Experts await wider adoption of buprenorphine to replace methadone which allows patients to obtain treatment from local doctors

By Jose A. Del Real

  • Jan. 12, 2018

Opioid Addiction Knows No Color, but Its Treatment Does

In New York, treatment is sharply segregated by income, as those with money can avoid methadone clinics and use an alternate treatment.

On a street lined with garbage trucks, in an industrial edge of Brooklyn, dozens of people started filing into an unmarked building before the winter sun rose. Patients gather here every day to visit the Vincent Dole Clinic, where they are promised relief from their cravings and from the constant search for heroin on the streets.

Robert Perez exited the clinic on a recent Wednesday and walked toward the subway, along the Gowanus Canal. Within the clinic’s antiseptic blue walls, he had just swallowed a red liquid from a small plastic cup. The daily dose of methadone helps Mr. Perez, 47, manage withdrawal symptoms as he tries to put decades of drug abuse behind him.

“I wish I didn’t have to come here every day, but I have to,” Mr. Perez said outside the clinic. “If you don’t do it, you’re sick. You wake up sick.”

Mr. Perez is not alone. For recovering users without money or private health insurance, these clinics are often the only option to get their lives on track, even as less cumbersome alternatives have become available for those who can pay for it.

In New York City, opioid addiction treatment is sharply segregated by income, according to addiction experts and an analysis of demographic data provided by the city health department. More affluent patients can avoid the methadone clinic entirely, receiving a new treatment directly from a doctor’s office. Many poorer Hispanic and black individuals struggling with drug addiction must rely on these highly regulated clinics, which they must visit daily to receive their plastic cup of methadone.

Mr. Perez expressed gratitude at the chance to treat his addiction, but lamented that his days are now oriented around the clinic. He had commuted 45 minutes from Bushwick to receive his methadone, a highly regulated opioid used to treat heroin and painkiller dependence, as he does every day of the week. Sometimes he waits in line at the clinic for an hour for his turn. “You have to come every day. I hate it, I hate it, but you have to do it.”

This is what opioid addiction recovery is like for more than 30,000 patients enrolled in New York City’s approximately 70 methadone-based treatment programs, which provide medication-assisted treatment, counseling and other social services. Hundreds of thousands of patients across the country are enrolled in similar programs, which often receive government funding and are covered by Medicaid in New York.

For more than 40 years, methadone was the most effective method for people addicted to heroin to keep their cravings in check. But in 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved another medication to treat opioid addiction: buprenorphine, sold most widely in a compound called Suboxone. Both methadone and buprenorphine are extremely effective in keeping recovering users from relapsing, according to medical research, but Suboxone is engineered to reduce the possibility of abuse and overdose. Crucially, the medication can be prescribed in doctors’ offices and then taken at home.

Many hoped that buprenorphine could mean an end to the daily hurdles to receiving treatment for tens of thousands of patients: no additional commute, no security check, no waiting, no line for the plastic cup.

But today in the city, that is primarily true only for middle-class or upper-middle-class patients seeking help with their addiction.

More patients arrived at the clinic as Mr. Perez spoke. They were nearly all Hispanic or black. Those who are white, like Melissa Neilson, are often unemployed or have few resources to dedicate to recovery. She and her partner, JC Marin, visit the clinic from Copiague, Long Island, in a taxi paid for by Medicaid. More than two hours each way, six days a week, for their daily dose.

Methadone treatment was pioneered in New York, a city with a deep history of opioid addiction; access to the treatment is easier here than anywhere else in the United States.But because methadone is highly regulated — owing to fears that it could be sold in illegal markets — physicians can provide methadone for addiction treatment only in specialized clinics like Vincent Dole. Employment, child care, unexpected emergencies and other life events have to be oriented around the clinic. On the street, methadone is sometimes referred to as the “liquid handcuffs.”

The limited data recently made available by the New York City health department hints at structural discrepancies in access to treatment that become obvious during visits to these clinics. In New York City, 53 percent of participants in methadone programs are Latino, 23 percent are black, and 21 percent are white, according to 2016 health department data.

The city said it does not keep track of the income or race of buprenorphine patients, and data on buprenorphine treatment demographics is sparse at the national level as well. A study published in 2016 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a scientific journal, found that buprenorphine and methadone access were correlated with income and ethnicity in New York City. Without broad government surveys, precision is difficult; the report lamented that no nationally representative data on ethnicity or income has been published since 2006, when a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that 92 percent of buprenorphine patients were white.

In 2016, according to data provided by the city, more than 13,600 New Yorkers filled prescriptions for Suboxone at least once — and nearly 80 percent paid for the medication with private insurance. No reliable payment data is available for methadone in New York City, but a representative for the Dole clinic said virtually all of its patients receive Medicaid.

City Hall has sought to increase the number of physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine. Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, have spoken about the urgent need to expand treatment options. But despite their efforts, the growth of buprenorphine prescribers has been slower than many experts would like.

“What this crisis is again calling attention to is the need for more health professionals to step in,” said Dr. Hillary Kunins, an assistant commissioner at the New York City Department of Health. “I think because of stigma and because of inadequate education in health professional settings, physicians were not taught to think about addiction in their specialties.”

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an opioid addiction expert affiliated with Brandeis University, said regulatory burdens on buprenorphine by the government — like the eight-hour certification requirement — have most likely discouraged physicians from offering it in their practices.

He added that many doctors who are certified to prescribe buprenorphine choose not to after realizing the complicated task of treating patients with substance abuse problems. Those who do work with the patients often do not accept insurance, he said, in some cases because demand is high and they can make more money charging directly. That means the patients must have enough money to pay out of pocket for the visit.

“Your insurance will pay for the prescription, but you have to pay for the doctor,” he said.

What has emerged is a private and expensive market for buprenorphine treatment.

The fight for equity in treatment for opioid addiction can feel like a multifront battle; in some cases, experts struggle just to persuade policymakers and nonspecialists that prescribing an opioid to a drug addict is a reasonable course of action. Numerous studies confirm that methadone and buprenorphine are both highly effective for treating opioid addiction. (The effectiveness of detoxification — total abstinence from opioids — for long-term addiction management, which is strongly emphasized in popular treatment narratives, has been called into question by experts and by medical research. It can also leave those who relapse at higher risk for overdose.)

The clinics themselves are often vulnerable because they work with such a highly stigmatized population, especially in rapidly gentrifying areas. Mr. Perez was enrolled in the Cumberland Clinic on Flatbush Avenue, near the Barclays Center, before it closed late last year. Mount Sinai Beth Israel, which ran the clinic and also runs the Dole facility, had its lease for the clinic terminated when a private owner sold it to a development company. A new high-rise development is going up in its place.

Dr. Helena Hansen, a research psychiatrist and cultural anthropologist, said racially charged stereotypes historically associated with opioid and heroin addiction have led to persistent stigma around methadone. Methadone, she said, carries criminal connotations that can be traced back to the War on Drugs rhetoric that escalated in the 1960s.

Methadone clinics, Dr. Hansen pointed out, can often look and function like probation offices. “And they’re organized as such,” she said. “People line up, they have to have their urine checked, you have to come every day.”

Noa Barreto, 43, started using heroin about four years ago after “a tragic loss” in his life. He was dealing drugs at the time and he “started getting high on my own supply.” Two years ago, after battling with addiction, he made a decision to enroll in methadone treatment. Mr. Barreto said after he overcame the initial shock of entering treatment, he was able to reorient his day around the methadone doses.

“It’s like a job, you know?” he said. “Once you get on it, and you become accustomed to it, it becomes easy. You get up in the morning and it becomes a routine.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Barreto said, he had to turn down a job offer because it would interfere with his ability to get to the methadone clinic. Some patients who have made progress with their addiction are trusted with limited “take home” bottles, but the process can take months or years. And with good reason. When abused, methadone carries an extremely high potential for overdose. (Mr. Barreto currently qualifies for take-home bottles on the weekends; he visits the clinic five times a week.)

Rick Harwood, the deputy director at the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, said the demographics of methadone clinics could be partly explained by patients who are middle class or white being less likely to see methadone as a treatment option.

“Ask people, middle class or otherwise, would they go to an opioid treatment program, a methadone clinic?” Mr. Harwood said. “Not too many of them probably would. A lot of times they’re inconvenient to where they live, or are in depressed neighborhoods, places people might consider unsafe.”

Mr. Harwood said that low-income patients could conceivably access buprenorphine treatment at methadone clinics, if they are interested. But methadone clinics are often already overwhelmed with methadone logistics and the social service programs they are required to provide; buprenorphine consultations are an additional service. That can produce an information gap in addition to a financial one. Dr. Kolodny also said that, realistically, buprenorphine treatment cuts against the business interests of for-profit methadone clinics, which are becoming more common nationally.

Mr. Perez could be served well by the flexibility that Suboxone would give him as he manages employment as a tattoo artist. He said he would like to consider transitioning to buprenorphine treatment, but does not know where he can get it or how he might pay for it. Meanwhile, some long-term users, including Ms. Neilson, who travels to the clinic from Long Island, say that methadone has a more satisfying effect than buprenorphine.

“I tried to go back on Suboxone,” she said. “I didn’t feel sick, but I still wanted to get high. I had no energy not even to get up and take a shower, let alone leave the house or stand up.” She added that she’s afraid to transition away from methadone. “The sickness is not something I can describe to anybody. This is a better way to do it. Methadone. I’m never getting off.”

Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, a Bronx-based addiction medicine expert who has worked with vulnerable populations for decades, said that she “just knew” a two-tier system would emerge, excluding many patients. But she stressed that methadone programs do important work for patients with complicated needs. Beyond drug treatment itself, the clinics provide a critical reprieve for patients without support networks.

“The people whose lives are a little bit more chaotic could benefit from methadone, or people who have poly-substance use, alcohol or cocaine, or others,” said Dr. Cunningham, who is affiliated with Montefiore Medical Center, in the Bronx. “Primary-care settings have limited resources and maybe can’t take on someone who is more complicated.”

Such was the case with Jonathan Roman, 33. He is homeless and sleeps in his van. He arrived at the Vincent Dole clinic about eight months ago without insurance, looking for help with his addiction; the team at the clinic helped him enroll in Medicaid. They are also helping him find housing, he said, while speaking glowingly about his counselor at the clinic.

At one point, Mr. Roman estimated that he was using $300 of heroin a day, which he paid for by “stealing and doing side jobs.” People took advantage of his addiction, he said, giving him work in construction and as an electrician but then paying him less than they should because they knew he was desperate. His dealer used to pick him up on payday, at 4:30 a.m., and drive him to the nearest A.T.M.

Mr. Roman said that for him and countless other patients, the concentrated resources available at the clinic provide a life-support system. He currently qualifies for take-home bottles of methadone, but he has refused them; the discipline of coming to the clinic each day helps him, he said.

“You can be on the good path, but if something happens in your life, and you think you’re not worth anything, or that life is not worth living, you do stupid things,” he said. “Now I think about all the things that I do and I laugh sometimes. I was this close to losing my life.”

Research on Homeless Shelters

Given so much push back on placement of homeless shelters, the latest being on Upper West Side and West Harlem, we thought some facts and research material would be helpful.

There are about 60,000 individuals who do not have a permanent home in NYC. The majority of these are families who typically enter shelter when they can no longer afford to pay rent due to job loss or other hardship.

Times are tough. We encourage all districts to help take care of their own residents who fall into hard times. Unfortunately, “most homeless families are not sheltered in the communities they come from.” Currently, only about 50% of children are placed in shelters in areas where they have been going to school. In fact, there are 12 districts in NYC with no family shelters at all.

Regarding single homeless adults, “Research shows that, compared to homeless families, homeless single adults have much higher rates of serious mental illness, addiction disorders, and other severe health problems.” These adults should be placed in small settings fairly distributed in areas where the individual used to reside, and with adequate social services to support them. 

Times are tough. Let’s all help each other while keeping fair share and equity in mind. We need to strike a delicate balance for the sake of our beloved NYC. click here to see a list of homeless shelters and methadone clinics in Harlem

See these 2 links for more info and our quotes: https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/

The graphic is plotted based on Shelter Score Card data: “https://fordham.carto.com/u/shill18/builder/8f51c8fb-6910-48d3-ae9d-35ffadfed443/embed”


  • 2021: Shelters purchased by the city to end reliance on cluster sites (CityLimits)
  • 2017: Mayor’s building plan for shelters (goodnewsnetwork)
  • 2016-2019: NYC: In 12 years, NYC homeless population surged 40% from 2011. The City counted almost 4000 people sleeping on the street and there is a 50-60,000 homeless population. Mayor launched turn the tide campaign to set up 130 shelters in the city – (Daily Mail Online, nydailynews.com, Curbed NY)


  • 2021 Jan: West Harlem pushes back on homeless shelter on 145th st. (Patch)
  • 2020 Dec: NYC Districts pushes back on housing affordable housing planned by Mayor – (nytimes.com)
  • 2020 Dec: NYC Upper West Side: The residents in Upper West Side Lucerne homeless shelter filed a law suit on decision to relocate them – (nydailynews.com)
  • 2020 Nov: NYC Downtown: Downtown residents filed a law suit against movement of homeless shelter to downtown hotel – (nydailynews.com)
  • 2019 Nov: NYC Ozone Park: 500 residents pushed back on new homeless shelter. 1 man went on hunger strike! – (citylimits.org)
  • 2018 Jul: NYC Midtown: Billionaires Row group sues city over homeless shelter plan – (Nydailynews.com, Fox News)
  • 2016: Central Harlem at 136th Street pushed back on another homeless shelter (Medium.com)

advocacy for safety issues in adult only shelters in nyc and harlem

  • 2012: NYC Harlem: Wards Island Homeless population of 1000 has one bus M35 and the only drop off point is… 125 street and Lexington. The City Limits claimed many of these men are ex convicts and sex offenders – (citylimits.org)
  • 2019 Sept: NYC Harlem Wards Island: Wards Island Homeless Shelter managed by Andrew Cuomo’s sister gets new 4 year renewal worth 45 million despite 22 code citation- (THE CITY)
  • 2019 Dec: Description of the medical challenges faced by residents in homeless shelters in New York City – (The New York Medical Journal)
  • 2017: 44 year old man stabbed to death in Central Harlem’s shelter by BRC (CBS news)
  • 2016: To mask the unsafe conditions in shelters, the city redefined how incidents are tracked in the system (NY Daily News)
  • 2016: 62 year old man stabbed to death in East Harlem’s shelter boulevard for single homeless men with mental issues (NBC)

Disappointing New Data

We are sad to report that new FOIL data indicates that number of patients traveling into Harlem to obtain methadone treatment continues to rise over the last 2 years.

For your background, below is the density map of methadone facilities in NYC.

And below is the overall capacity of methadone dispensing approved by NY State OASAS (Office of Addiction Services and Support)

Stop Mt. Sinai’s CARES program from moving at risk youth to a location rife with drug-trading activities. Stop this madness!

Despite tremendous push back from community members, Mount Sinai has announced it will relocate the 60 or so at-risk youth, ages 13-21, in its CARES program from their current Morningside Heights location to their new facility at 160 W 124th Street in Central Harlem as part of a “restructuring” effort. 

We appreciate such schools to help these vulnerable children, however, what is very concerning is that this new location, is a well-known drug nexus!!

As you see in our data map above, CARES’s current neighborhood has little drug-trading activity. The new location is rife with drug-trading activity — as indicated by the density of drug-related arrests — partly driven by its proximity to 3 methadone clinics as well as a safe-injection site (aka needle exchange site) maintained by Harlem United.

According to Mount Sinai, students in the CARES program are youths with “early run-ins with the police… and/or legal problems…” and “severe emotional problems and school truancy.” Common sense would dictate that these students needs to be placed as far away from drug dealers as possible. 

Who in their right mind would think placing these at-risk youths in this drug nexus is a good idea? 

Mount Sinai seems to be more concerned about about their bottom line than about the students’ welfare. To read more about our grievances with Mount Sinai, see here.

How can you help?

Tell Mount Sinai to STOP THE MOVE! These particularly vulnerable teenagers will encounter the open street drug dealing and usage on a daily basis.

For the sake of these children, tell Richard A. Friedman and James S. Tisch the co-chairmen of Mount Sinai’s Board of Trustee to STOP THE MOVE!!! Mr. Friedman is the Chairman of Merchant Banking at Goldman Sachs and Mr. Tisch is the CEO of Loews Corporation, which oversees the Loews Hotel chain. These large companies don’t like seeing negative press.

To help this cause, we recommend you to set up a twitter account and write something on the twitter accounts of Goldman Sachs and Loews Hotel. On their new posts, you can either leave a remark or quote tweet the post to your followers to raise awareness. Many of their millions of followers, including people from the media, will see your remarks.

Looking Back at Our Jan 14 2021 Town Hall

In Jan 14 2021, over 200 attendees turned out on Zoom to listen to updates on crucial quality of life concerns in Harlem, as well as Greater Harlem Coalition’s accomplishments in 2020, and our strategy for 2021. Thank you all of you for showing up in such powerful numbers.

Not surprisingly, emotions in the meeting ran high as  we listened to Mount Sinai obfuscate and filibuster, especially around the issue of their patients loitering after receiving treatment at Mount Sinai’s 132 W 125 Street and 103 E 125 Street methadone facilities. As a reminder, 40% of Harlem’s methadone dispensing capabilities come from Mount Sinai|Beth Israel.

With over 200 questions for Mount Sinai in the chat, the audience showed Mount Sinai that Harlem and East Harlem are watching, and that we are concerned about the community impact of their new Mount Sinai Ambulatory Care Center at 158 W 124th Street, which notably includes the  CARES program.  GHC members are also demanding  that Mount Sinai address and reduce the unacceptable impact that the methadone programs on 125th Street have on residents, our children, and local businesses.

Updates on the 158 West 124th Street Facility and CARES program from Mount Sinai

In spite of Mount Sinai’s less than forthright engagement with the community, It’s important to note that that we learned of one significant win:

Mount Sinai changed their minds about putting addiction services in their new 124th Street building. 

While this does not square with their insistence that CARES (a program for high school students with behavioral health and substance abuse issues) will also be located in this new facility, we are celebrating Mount Sinai’s reversal after two and a half years of protesting and organizing.  Although, this is not the complete abandonment we want, it is a victory to be celebrated nonetheless!

Although Mount Sanai has not completely abandoned the new 124th Street facility, as we wish them to, this is a victory to be celebrated, nonetheless!

Updates on Existing Facilities on 132 W 125 Street and 103 E 125 Street

As for the issue of loitering in the 2 large existing facilities, Mount Sinai informed us that they have contracted a new , more reputable security firm and will staff their new building with retired NYPD sergeants.  Mount Sinai will also be installing additional security measures  inside the buildings, such as metal detectors and security cameras. 

To our surprise, Mount Sinai pointedly noted that they are only responsible for security inside their building. We wonder: if Mount Sinai believes that such intensive security measures are required to protect their own personnel from their patients, where does this leave the local businesses and residents who live and work near these facilities? 

If Mount Sinai believes they are not responsible for mitigating their negative impact in the vicinity, who is protecting the local population??? 

Not government agencies, as OASAS has already stated that this is not their problem. Not the police, as they are overstretched and believe OASAS to be the root cause of the problem. This game of hot potato being played with our safety is extremely disturbing to say the least. We urge Governor Cuomo to address this issue.

Update on 160 W 124 Street Facility CARES Program for At-risk Youth

We are highly disappointed to hear that Mount Sinai insists on moving CARES from its Morningside Heights location at 1111 Amsterdam Avenue to 160 W 124th Street. CARES — Comprehensive Adolescent Rehabilitation and Education Services is Mount Sinai/St. Luke’s program for high school students ages 13 through 21 with mental health and/or substance abuse issues.  

CARES program current location

To be clear, Mount Sinai is moving at-risk youth to one of Manhattan’s most blatant open-air illegal drug marketplaces and half a block from one of NYC’s largest methadone treatment clinics. How is this a good idea???

Would Mount Sinai board members send their children to school in this location?  It is hard to see any pedagogical motive for this move.  Rather the relocation  appears to be soley for the benefit of the hospital’s profit maximization.

We will Not Stop Here

Many of you participated in the very active chat with more than 200 questions and comments for Mount Sinai.  A copy of this chat will be sent to the Mount Sinai participants to give them the opportunity to respond.

If you have any follow-up questions, feel free to reach out to Brad Beckstrom the public relations person who led the Mount Sinai presentation and let us know what response you get (or don’t) so we can encourage follow-up and accountability: brad.beckstrom@mssm.edu. For questions related to the CARES program, contact the program director: shilpa.taufique@mountsinai.org 

To see some sample of the > 200 questions and comments in the chat:

New Facility on 158 West 124 Street

  • Why was this location chosen?
  • Do you have a community advisory board/committee?
  • I am curious to hear how this facility was initially approved. Was it a city decision? What is Mt Sinai’s strategy for expansion in the community, and has it already been approved? Thank you.
  • What is the security plans for outside the building and surrounding areas?
  • Can you please speak to the ways in which you plan to make the facility culturally acceptable to this key community, while maintaining your security personnel on site
  • What assurance is there that medication assisted treatment (MAT) patients will not eventually be supported at this location?
  • What percentage of your patients are from areas outside of Harlem?
  • Can you tell us the breakdown as far as what percentage of patients will be HIV vs behavioral health care?
  • You say there will be no drug treatment, service for other concerns; the background history of these participants is DRUG USE; thereby some form of drug treatment will be carried out.

CARES program:

  • Are you not concerned that you are bringing vulnerable people who may have addiction issues into an already over-saturated drug clinic area, with so much illegal drug dealing?
  • St. Lukes/Columbia Univ area seems to get a different level of attention than Central Harlem

Existing Facilities on 132 W 125 Street and 103 E 125 Street

Quality of life

  • Do any of you panelists live on a street with three drug treatment centers?
  • If you are such a good neighbor, why are you over saturating our community when you could locate these substance clinics in upper east side?
  • The residents here are sick and tired of the dope addicts and drug dealers your enterprises have brought to our neighborhood. 123rd 124th streets on MXB.  We had to create a block association because of the influence of your dope clinics. I personally want you out of here but I am willing to listen….every single day they shooting a heroin on my block!! this doesn’t help my community
  • Dope addicts and drug dealers have overrun our neighborhood. I have been calling the police, taking pictures, putting my family’s lives in danger, walking through throngs of dope addicts for over two years mostly, but this has been going on for over a decade.


  • I agree that [under the new plan,] you seem to have great security in your facilities, but the you’re causing serious problems for the rest of the neighborhood since your jurisdiction is only your property line.
  • Sounds like you have great security in your facilities, but the you’re causing serious problems for us. Because your facilities attract all these folks that become an easy target for drug dealers and since they cannot linger around your facility they end up in front of our cafe and wreck havoc. I spend all day every single day trying to move high out of their minds people, spitting, pissing, and throwing garbage all over the place. What do you say or do about that?
  • What will be the ratio of security staff to patients and how will the clinic prevent the clients from congregating in large groups on the block
  • How many blocks around your facility will your security firm cover? If you cannot cover more than your perimeter, then you must reduce methadone capacity in Harlem

Update on the New 158 W 124th St Mt Sinai Facility

Happy Dr. King Day! GHC is pleased to report that Mt Sinai will not include a methadone clinic in the new 158 W 124th Street facility. It is a SIGNIFICANT WIN for us. However, #Harlem remains oversaturated and we won’t stop fighting for Harlem!

Happy Dr King Day!

Last Thursday, Jan 14th 2021, the Coalition and our allies, more than 200 of us, turned out on Zoom to listen to Mount Sinai obfuscate and filibuster especially, around the issue of their patients loitering after receiving treatment. In spite of Mount Sinai’s less than forthright engagement with the community,

it’s important to note that that we learned of one significant win: they changed their minds about putting addiction services in their new 158 W 124th Street building. 

While this does not square with their insistence that CARES (a program for high school students with behavioral health and substance abuse issues) will also be located in this new facility, we are celebrating Mount Sinai’s reversal after two and a half years of protesting and organizing.  Although, this is not the complete abandonment we want, it is a victory to be celebrated nonetheless!

Read a more detailed recap of the discussion in the Town Hall here and a recording of the meeting here.

We will not stop here.

Next, we will take our momentum on to the Manhattan District Attorney Candidate Forum (DA Forum) on Thursday, February 4th , 7 PM.

Join our next event, the Manhattan DA Forum on February 4th

The theme of the forum is Harlem’s Fair Share. Click on the flyer above to register and get more info.

We will end this with a quote from MLK:

(Jan 27)GHC to speak in public forum related to integration of OASAS and DOMH

The support of substance abuse patients in the state of New York is regulated at the state level by the Office of Addiction Support and Services (@NYSOASAS) – which reports to Governor Cuomo.

Under Governor Cuomo, the merger of the Office of Mental Health (DOMH) and OASAS continues to gain momentum and there is an upcoming virtual session where public are invited to speak up on their concerns on January 27th to decision makers in Albany.

WE INVITE YOU TO SPEAK in this forum on how the oversaturation of substance abuse facilities of your community has impacted you and your family. Greater Harlem Coalition will also speak to urge the new agency to reduce and monitor the over concentration of such facilities in Harlem.

To register to speak, please contact them:
-By phone:518-474-4403
-By email:Leesa.Rademacher@omh.ny.gov

To listen only, go to the webex session on this link

Although OASAS and OMH have always collaborated well to serve New Yorkers, the creation of a unified behavioral health agency is being explored as a way to increase coordination of services and support people with both substance use disorders and mental illnesses. An integrated behavioral health agency could also help streamline service delivery and increase efficiency.


As we always say, Albany cannot read your mind.  They will not change course unless they hear from you.  If you don’t tell them what you think, what you are experiencing, what you want done, they will ignore you.  

Your voice can make a difference.  Please contact them, sign up to speak, and ask them why Harlem is oversaturated with methadone clinics when wealthier and whiter neighborhoods have none.

More details of the meeting on Jan 27 are here: https://oasas.ny.gov/news/behavioral-health-services-advisory-council-meet-virtually-january-27-2021 

More details of the integration of the two organizations are here: Reimagining Behavioral Health Services – Overview and Discussion Questions (ny.gov)

Recording of the previous 4 listening sessions can be found here: Reimagining Behavioral Health Listening Sessions | The State of New York (ny.gov)

For previous related posts, see also a letter our members Keith Taylor @Taylor4Harlem sent to DOMH and OASAS here

(Jan 14) Greater Harlem Coalition 2021 Townhall

Speaker will include our three founders: Syderia Asberry-Chresfield, Carolyn Brown, Shawn Hill. Guest speaker is Mount Sinai

14 Jan 2021 ( 7-830 pm)

Register to join the meeting here

Help us Help Harlem

Greater Harlem Coalition has accomplished a lot in 2020. But much remains to be done. Would you volunteer to fight for better quality of life in Harlem?

All backgrounds are welcome. We are especially seeking help from those with experience in law, social media, community coordination, and web development.

  • Legal advisor: Help with our strategy to challenge government agency’s approval of drug treatment capacities and adult homeless shelters located in Harlem
  • Election year strategist: Help with communications with public officials and election candidates. Help write related posts on social media and extract relevant info from media. Help develop strategies to influence the race for Manhattan DA, City Council, Senate in Harlem, NYC Mayor…etc.
  • Event coordinator: Help coordinate upcoming events and zoom meetings, e.g. district attorney forum, Harlem walk through with election candidates…,etc.
  • Harlem advocate: Work directly with our members, which are businesses, community organizations, and block associations, to increase their engagement. Help identify and escalate quality of life issues. Also, recruit new member organizations and raise funds when possible.  Liaisons will be assigned a region in Harlem, so pick a district you are passionate about
  • Social media outreach manager: Recruit new members on social media and develop social media strategy in general. Help create graphics for social media and help with fund raising
  • Website manager: Help with content management. Help improve the navigation and look and feel of the website. Programming or css experience not necessary but can be helpful. Help create graphics for social media

Look back of 2020:

Mayor visit with Council member Ayala
Letters of complaints from GHC and others prompted Mayor to examine the quality of life issues on 125th street

(read more)

Interview of our founders by CBS News

(read more)

Proximity of drug treatment facilities to schools in Harlem

(read more)

(Feb 4, 2020) GHC hosts Manhattan District Attorney Candidate Forum

Join Greater Harlem’s Manhattan DA candidates forum on Feb 4.

Greater Harlem Coalition is pleased to host the next forum where 8 candidates for the Manhattan District Attorney position will answer your questions. Come see why some are calling this race:

How to join?

To attend the forum, click this link: Attend the DA Candidates’ Forum.

What is the topic of discussion?

The theme of the forum is Harlem’s Fair Share. Here’s your chance to join a discussion of how the DA’s office, with so much legal power, can correct the entrenched inequities that residents and businesses in Harlem experience in contrast to other districts in New York City. Candidates will discuss inequities in terms of health outcome, education outcome, public safety, and the oversaturation of drug treatment facilities and adult homeless shelters in Harlem. #inequity #healthinequity #educationinequity #oversaturation

How does the Manhattan DA affect Harlem?

8 candidates are vying to replace Cy Vance as Manhattan’s DA. To give you some context, the DA’s office prosecutes corrupt politicians, major drug dealers, illegal distributors of pain killers, and play a key role in implementing supervised injection sites. Traditionally, DAs in Queens and Staten Island have adamantly rejected supervised injection sites (see WNYC report here and Gothamist report here).

Click on the poster to download the two pager flyer

To submit a question to the candidates, go to this link: Submit a QuestionTo download the flyer: GHC-DA-Candidates-ForumDownload

Who are the candidates?

Tahanie Aboushi (@TahanieNYC), Alvin Bragg (@AlvinBraggNYC), Liz Crotty (@LizCrotty2021), Diana Florence (@DianaJFlorence) , Tali Farhadian Weinstein (@TaliFarhadian), Lucy Lang (@LucyLangNYC) , Eliza Orlins (@elizaorlins) , Dan Quart (@AMDanQuart). Click on this link to see tweets from all of these candidates at once.

See other media coverage on this election:

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