Substance Abuse Programs for NYC Youth Likely to Lose Funding

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Substance abuse programs for youth in NYC are facing a huge loss of funding.
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Due to changes in a New York state agency’s process for awarding grants to programs dealing with substance abuse prevention, many youth organizations are set to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding.

The New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, or OASAS, has developed a new set of guidelines that many are calling cumbersome and confusing. Roughly a dozen long-standing organizations did not make the cut based on this new criteria, determined by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

According to the new guidelines, the programs must provide evidence-based curricula approved by OASAS. Part of the problem is that many of these organizations are working from what OASAS spokeswoman Susan Craig called “kind of legacy contracts,” seeking funding for programs that are arguably not directly addressing substance abuse.

Some of the affected organizations include Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, which has counseled teenagers in the Bronx and Manhattan for 30 years; Our Children’s Foundation, which provides tutoring, dance classes, and other activities to children in Harlem; and Project Reach in Chinatown, which has worked to keep kids off the streets since 1971.

The loss of this source of funding could cause these programs to close. Mount Sinai, for instance, was receiving more than $700,000 annually—a difficult sum to raise from other sources.

Financing from OASAS was set to end on June 30, but it has been extended through the end of December to allow affected programs time to “phase down.”

According to OASAS, more than 200,400 young people will be served under new four-year contracts arranged through the new system, compared to the 55,800 served under the old contracts. More than $15.7 million will be shared between 27 providers if the recommendations are officially approved by the state comptroller’s office.

Nonprofits likely to lose their funding are concerned that the new system penalizes organizations not tied directly to schools. So far, grants have been awarded to the city’s Education Department and the education departments of the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn. But many young people with drug problems are not actively attending school, making it difficult for traditional education-based programs to serve everyone who would benefit from the programs.

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