05/25/2016

CSH Testimony to Gov’s Task Force on Combating Heroin in NY

Written Comments of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH)

Governor’s Task Force to Combat Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse

Submitted by Kristin Miller, Director of CSH Metro Region

Lieutenant Governor Hochul, Commissioner González-Sánchez, members of the Governor’s Task Force. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony to this important and distinguished group of policymakers and advocates.

CSH has offered similar testimony to the New York Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction and applauds the efforts of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature, including Senator Terrance Murphy who serves on this Task Force as well, for elevating this issue and keeping it in the spotlight where it belongs.

CSH has a 25-year track record of innovation and investment in New York. Since 1991, CSH has made nearly $140M in loans to supportive housing developers for the creation of over 15,000 permanent supportive and affordable housing units in this state. Through our promotion of supportive housing, we are intimately familiar with the housing and services needs of residents who struggle with substance addiction and desperately seek stable lives to pursue recovery.

As you have undoubtedly heard again and again as you travel throughout the state, heroin and opioids are destroying people’s lives and damaging families and neighborhoods. My testimony is focused on supportive housing, a proven solution and valuable tool in our fight to stem this epidemic.

CSH this year released Supportive Housing’s Vital Role in Addressing the Opioid Epidemic in New York State , which provides a background of the opioid epidemic in New York communities and cites research showing supportive housing as a solution for individuals facing substance use disorders. Supportive housing combines affordable housing and services that help people facing complex challenges live with stability, autonomy and dignity. It has been demonstrated that through the stability found in supportive housing, people using heroin successfully avail themselves to the treatments that address their substance use disorder.[1] In fact, a study published in 2014 by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that supportive housing was successful in reducing the use of, and costs associated with, substance abuse and crisis care services, including shelters, detox centers, jails and medical care (hospitalizations and emergency room visits). The findings suggest that individuals actively using substances can be housed successfully and stabilized without forcing treatment requirements on them.[2]

New York, too, knows supportive housing is an answer. Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have publicly committed to creating a combined total of 35,000 new supportive housing units in the City and throughout the rest of the state within the next 15 years.

CSH congratulates the Mayor and Governor for taking these important steps to house our most vulnerable New Yorkers. We urge this Task Force to help us ensure these new units are realized as soon as possible, and that people and communities living with the opioid epidemic have access to them and the important services they will need to achieve substance use recovery.

Housing is essential as an anchor of stability. Home forms a firm platform from which individuals can pursue the services they need. It is our responsibility to make sure our most vulnerable New Yorkers have access to the services as well as a home. That is what supportive housing provides. A person consumed by addiction can have access to the best treatments in the world, but recovery is highly unlikely if they are living on the street or in a shelter.

Without supportive housing, many individuals with opioid or heroin addiction will continue to cycle endlessly between homelessness and expensive public services delivery systems including inpatient hospital beds, psychiatric centers, detox services, jails and prisons, at an enormous public and human cost.

We ask members of this Task Force to help these individuals by ensuring that the recent commitments to new supportive housing in New York are realized, and that these resources are accessible to people struggling with substance use disorders, particularly heroin and opioid addictions.

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[1] Gray, Paul; Fraser, Penny. Housing and heroin use: The role of floating support. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy. Vol. 12, Iss. 4, 2005.

[2] Neighbors, Charles; Hall, Gerod; et.al. Evaluation of NY/NY III Housing for Active Substance Users. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. 2014.

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