COMMISSIONER CHINAZO CUNNINGHAM

December 07, 2022


Expansion of NYS Behavioral Health Ombudsman Program Will Educate Families and Individuals on Their Insurance Rights and Help When They Are Denied Coverage

The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) today announced awards totaling up to $320,000 for four community-based organizations to help educate the public on their rights and access to insurance coverage for behavioral health issues. The awards were issued through the Community Health Access to Addiction and Mental Healthcare Project (CHAMP). 

Established in the 2018-2019 New York State Budget, CHAMP was created to increase access to substance use and mental health care by assisting individuals in maximizing use of insurance benefits.

OASAS Commissioner Chinazo Cunningham said, “CHAMP helps individuals and families access the treatment and services they need without the stress of having to navigate the complicated insurance system on their own. Providing this support is critical to helping remove barriers to accessing life-saving services.”

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “About 1 in 5 New Yorkers require behavioral health services, and often many do not receive treatment because of stigma and other barriers to treatment. This can be a matter of life and death, and the Behavioral Health Ombudsman Program helps to improve access to insurance coverage for substance use disorder and mental health services.”

Providers receiving funding will help to raise awareness about the CHAMP program, advise clients how to secure payment and authorization from a health insurance plan, and provide information about mental health and substance use disorder parity laws and other regulations that protect consumers’ rights.

The following organizations are each receiving up to $80,000 in funding through this initiative:

  • AIM Independence will provide education and services in the Southern Tier, with an emphasis on Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben counties. AIM offers a diverse range of support services, focusing on people with disabilities, the uninsured and underinsured, and those with substance use and/or mental health conditions.
  • Andreus will provide education and services in Westchester County. Andreus has a proven record of providing a full continuum of care for expectant mothers, children and young adults with mental health and substance use issues, with a focus on health equity.
  • Phoenix House will provide education and services in New York City for low-income and uninsured individuals with a substance use or mental health condition, or in recovery. Phoenix House has a robust peer-outreach infrastructure of professionals with lived experience that has been leveraged for community outreach and engagement.
  • Second Chance Opportunities (SCO) will provide education and services in the Capital District region. SCO employs individuals with lived experience who work collaboratively with local communities to help individuals and families access many services, including treatment, and recovery supports, for individuals with mental health and substance use conditions.

Since its inception, CHAMP has helped over 5,000 New Yorkers with insurance eligibility, accessing care, and overcoming high costs of care, as well as assisting with insurance denials and other administrative barriers pertaining to insurance coverage.

To continue to address issues with insurance access, CHAMP works with a network of specialists and community-based organization partners and operates a live-answer helpline. The CHAMP Helpline at is available at 888-614-5400 Monday through Friday from 9 am to 4pm. Help can also be accessed by emailing

The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports oversees one of the nation’s largest substance use disorder systems of care with approximately 1,700 prevention, treatment and recovery programs serving over 680,000 individuals per year. This includes the direct operation of 12 Addiction Treatment Centers where our doctors, nurses, and clinical staff provide inpatient and residential services to approximately 8,000 individuals per year. 

New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state’s toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369). 

Available addiction treatment including crisis/detox, inpatient, residential, or outpatient care can be found using the NYS OASAS Treatment Availability Dashboard at or through the NYS OASAS website



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