For the first time in recent history, New York is slated to have a medical doctor instead of a bureaucrat running the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). Not only is Chinazo Cunningham, M.D., an expert in methadone and buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder, but she is a strong proponent of harm reduction and is passionate about advocating for patients.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul has no qualms about nominating strong people to agencies, and clearly, this choice as OASAS Commissioner shows that she is willing to leave the business of New York’s addiction treatment in the hands of the most capable person she could find.
AT Forum joins others in the New York treatment community, including COMPA, the state’s chapter of AATOD, in welcoming Dr. Cunningham, who will join the agency as acting director until her nomination is confirmed – and it is widely expected that this confirmation is assured, as the legislature is also focused on treatment and harm reduction.
New York was one of the first states to create an office of drug user health, and indeed drug user health is one of Dr. Cunningham’s interests. Most recently she was Executive Deputy Commissioner of Mental Hygiene at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and before that was at Montefiore Health System. She is a professor of medicine, family and social medicine, and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
As OASAS commissioner, Dr. Cunningham will also have control over New York’s sizeable portion of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant, and preside over this at a time of moving parts in the methadone treatment field, with vans now approved to dispense the medication and for-profit OTPs now allowed to receive block grant funding.