Pubdate: Sun, 01 Jun 2014
Source: Citizen, The (Auburn, NY)
Copyright: 2014 Auburn Publishers Inc.
Author: Robert Harding


As communities and state officials ponder what to do with closed
correctional facilities, state Sen. Michael Nozzolio has an idea of
his own: Transform the shuttered prisons into substance abuse
treatment centers.

Nozzolio, R-Fayette, has introduced legislation in the state Senate
that would require the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse
Services and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
to explore whether the prisons could be used as drug treatment facilities.

The bill, S7655A, was one of 25 legislative proposals included in a
report released Wednesday by the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and
Opioid Abuse. The task force released its report after conducting
several hearings around the state, including a forum May 8 in Auburn.

Nozzolio, who chairs the Senate Codes Committee, served as one of the
panel's vice chairs.

According to the bill's justification, which is included in the text
of the measure, converting closed prisons into drug treatment
facilities would help address the need for more beds as the heroin
epidemic continues to grow.

"Adequate treatment facilities and programs and a sufficient supply of
treatment beds has been an issue in the substance abuse treatment
field for some time and the recent dramatic increase of heroin
addiction, which is reaching epidemic proportions, has amplified that
shortage," the bill reads.

"The state has been closing prisons for some time and plans to close
additional prisons in the very near future. This bill requires that a
study be done of those correctional facilities to determine the
feasibility of converting those facilities to treatment facilities.
The need for additional beds has become obvious and this bill provides
an opportunity to whether those beds can be provided in existing
facilities owned by the state."

Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office in 2011, the state has closed nine
prisons. Four more will close in July, including Butler Correctional
Facility in Wayne County.

State officials say closing Butler and three other correctional
facilities will save $30 million each year.

While the prison closures were included in the 2014-15 budget, a
provision was attached to designate the four properties as tax-free
zones in the state's Start-Up NY program. Cuomo and legislative
leaders agreed to include the provision as a way to help communities
affected by the closures.

But Nozzolio's bill enters another option into the discussion about
what to do with prisons that have already closed and soon-to-be
shuttered correctional facilities. As of Friday, 22 senators have
cosponsored the legislation, including state Sen. Jim Seward. Seward,
R-Milford, represents six towns in Cayuga County and served with
Nozzolio on the heroin task force.

If Nozzolio's measure is approved by the state Legislature and signed
into law by Cuomo, the study must be completed and submitted to
leaders of four state legislative committees within 60 days of the
bill's adoption.
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