Even as the worst snowstorm in years hit New York City on Tuesday, hundreds of advocates and people in recovery rallied at the state Capitol Tuesday for Stand Up for Recovery Day. The day celebrates the promise of recovery from addiction and serves as a chance to educate elected officials on the recovery movement. 

“Especially nowadays, with the drugs being so lethal, when folks make it to recovery, you’ve got to really support them staying there,” said attorney and drug policy expert Rob Kent, president of Kent Strategic Advisors.  

Kent, who previously served as general counsel with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, as well as the general counsel for the New York state Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), shared a personal story about one of his closest colleagues that illustrates why he’s so passionate about the issue.

“When you make it back, you rebuild families, you reconnect folks, you make people productive citizens. And so, it’s so much more than policy,” Kent said of the recovery movement. 

When asked what he’s looking for in an enacted state budget which is currently being negotiated, Kent said more money for OASAS. 

“The OASAS budget, from the Legislature’s review, their fiscal committees, there’s like a $179 million cut in the OASAS budget, in the middle of the worst overdose epidemic and the worst numbers ever,” he said. “There’s absolutely no way funding for addiction services should be cut right now. We’re losing too many people.”

In response to Kent’s statement, the OASAS emailed the following statement to Capital Tonight: 

“Most of the appropriation reductions are due to lower Opioid Settlement Fund receipts. That’s why appropriations from FY23 and FY24 support multi-year programming. This decrease in OSF dollars will not be felt by providers and the community. Additionally, there were some reductions made to non-critical services that are already offered in different ways throughout the service system.” 

The budget is due April 1.