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James Plastiras Director of Public Information New York State Office of Mental Health 518-474-6540 james.plastiras@omh.ny.gov

January 10, 2019

OMH and OASAS Announce Awards to Help New Yorkers Access Insurance Coverage for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

Community Groups Selected to Help Educate Public on Insurance Rights and Provide Assistance When Coverage is Denied

The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) have approved awards for five community-based organizations to help educate the public on a new State resource to help individuals and providers access lifesaving substance use disorder and mental health treatment.

Grants were awarded through the Community Health Access to Addiction and Mental Healthcare Project (CHAMP) network, a new Ombudsman program established to educate individuals, families, and health care providers on their legal rights related to insurance coverage for behavioral health services, help people to access behavioral health treatment and services, and investigate and resolve complaints regarding health insurance denials of behavioral health services. For assistance, consumers can email Ombuds@oasas.ny.gov or‎ call 888-614-5400.

Each of the community-based organizations awarded funding will receive between $25,000 and $30,000 that will be used to conduct the following services:

  • Help to educate consumers, family groups, advocates, healthcare providers, and other stakeholders about the CHAMP program,
  • Advise clients how to secure authorization of and payment for mental health and substance use disorder health services from a health insurance plan,
  • Provide information about mental health and substance use disorder parity laws and other regulations that protect consumers’ rights to access those health services.

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “Access to insurance coverage is critically important for people seeking treatment for mental health issues, and denial of coverage is an unacceptable barrier to treatment. These awards will support the new Ombudsman program, help to educate New Yorkers about their insurance rights and ensure that individuals and families have the coverage they need for substance use disorder and mental health services.”

OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, “Access to both mental health and substance use disorder treatment ensures that those with co-occurring disorders have a fair chance at a life in sustained recovery. This funding will help remove barriers to accessing care and provide critical and comprehensive supports tailored to meet the needs of individuals and families.”

The Community-Based Organizations selected to join the CHAMP network include:

Adirondack Health Institute (AHI) will provide education and services in 9 counties of the North Country. AHI works collaboratively with local communities to help them access many kinds of services, including mental health and substance use disorder services.

Community Health Action of Staten Island (CHASI) will provide education and services in Staten Island, with an emphasis on the North Shore. CHASI offers a diverse range of health services, including substance use disorder, mental health, HIV, and hepatitis C services, to underserved Staten Islanders.

Family and Children’s Association (FCA) will provide education and services in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. FCA has a proven record of providing a full continuum of care, including substance use disorder and mental health services, to a large population of Long Islanders. 

Family Counseling Services of Cortland County, Inc. (FCS) will provide education and services in Broome, Cortland, Madison, and Tioga Counties. FCS is dedicated to providing affordable and accessible mental health and substance use disorder care and prevention services to children, teens, and adults.

Save the Michaels of the World, Inc. will provide education and services in Western New York. Save the Michaels provides outreach, education, and immediate placement to treatment and wrap around services for those with substance use disorder and their families. Save the Michaels started as a small group of people who wanted to spread awareness about the effects of prescription opioid addiction, and has grown into an organization that offers services to individuals and their families and advocates for systemic change to curb the effects of substance use disorder.

The CHAMP program was established in the 2018-2019 Budget with a $1.5 million commitment approved by Governor Cuomo. It builds on New York State’s nation-leading efforts to increase access to addiction and behavioral health services for all New Yorkers. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has enacted of numerous legislative and regulatory reforms designed to increase access to addiction treatment for all New Yorkers. This includes the elimination of many insurance restrictions related to care for substance use disorders, as well as education and training for prescribers, and action to combat patient brokering and fraudulent addiction services. Governor Cuomo also recently signed the Parity Reporting Act, which requires health plans operating in New York State to submit data detailing their compliance with behavioral health coverage requirements.

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