Statement of Support in Supreme Court Reproductive Freedom Case

I joined elected officials from around the country in signing an open letter of support for state legislators who shared their abortion stories in an amicus brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in Whole Women’s Health v. Cole. The Center for Reproductive Rights is organizing the letter (see text below).


Four of our colleagues—the Honorable Wendy Davis of Texas, Teresa Fedor of Ohio, Lucy Flores of Nevada, and Judy Nicastro of Washington State—filed a friend-of-the-court brief on January 4, 2016, with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a lawsuit challenging provisions of Texas HB2, a sweeping law imposing numerous restrictions on access to abortion. In their brief, the current and former legislators bravely share their perspectives as women who made the decision to have an abortion. The brief is one of 45 friend-of-the-court briefs filed in the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, that urge the Court to once again affirm longstanding precedent and uphold a woman’s constitutional right to access safe and legal abortion services.

Long Island Press: Long Island Set to Offer Medical Marijuana at Two Dispensaries as New Law Goes Into Effect

By Spencer Rumsey and Rashed Mian, 1/29/16

Little by little, New York is finally joining 22 other states plus Washington, D.C., in offering medical marijuana to qualified patients at tightly regulated dispensaries that are slowly opening across the Empire State. All told, there will be 20 when the program is fully operational. Two facilities are set to open Friday on Long Island, one in Riverhead and the other at Lake Success.

Like Minnesota, New York’s stipulations are very restrictive, permitting the dispensaries to sell the drug only in oils and tinctures—not in smokable or edible form—compared to other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Politico NY: Community groups worry about being left out of Medicaid reform

By Dan Goldberg, 1/28/16

Anthony Feliciano is popular these days. He is the director for the Commission on the Public’s Health System, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that advocates for medically underserved populations.

In that role, he has been approached by several of the largest health systems in the state, which have asked what the community he serves needs to improve its collective health.

Feliciano spends a few minutes on the phone and patiently answers their questions.

He’s told they might follow up. Some do, some don’t.

PBS News Hour: Postpartum mom says depression screening would have made all the difference

By Victoria Pasquantonio, 1/27/16

Paige Bellenbaum with her husband and two chidren.

Paige Bellenbaum, posing with her husband and two chidren, says a visit to a clinic helped her manage her own postpartum depression.

Paige Bellenbaum sat on a New York City park bench several years ago with her baby son, Max, when she saw another new mom staring adoringly at her own baby.

“And she looked at me and said, ‘Isn’t it wonderful?’” Bellenbaum said. “I looked back at her and I said, ‘No, not really, it’s actually the hardest thing I’ve ever done.’” The new mother’s smile faded as tears welled up in her eyes. “I’m so glad you said that,” she said.

Bellenbaum, who battled severe postpartum depression, said Tuesday’s announcement by a government-appointed task force, which recommends medical professionals screen women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth, was a step in the right direction in the fight to improve women’s mental health. According to the report, the 2009 task force had recommended depression screenings for all adults but had not specifically included pregnant and women who gave birth.

Politico: Cuomo, de Blasio have small window to find savings in Medicaid

By Dan Goldberg and Josefa Velasquez, January 21

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have less than 10 weeks to find $180 million in Medicaid savings if they are to keep a pledge to find efficiencies in the program before the state budget is enacted. The new fiscal year begins on April 1.

The sudden sprint is the result of Cuomo’s proposal to lift the cap on New York City’s Medicaid share, a move that would cost the city nearly $2 billion over the next four years if it were to take effect.

Cuomo said his own proposal won’t be necessary because “there are no two people better equipped to work through tough issues than the mayor and myself.”

De Blasio, eager to avoid potentially devastating cuts, agreed to find the efficiencies and savings sought by Cuomo, whose original rationale for lifting the city’s cap did not mention efficiencies or administrative savings.

Chelsea Now: Protected Buildings Fraudulently Marked For Destruction

By Sean Egan, 1/20/16

BY SEAN EGAN | A set of residential buildings in the middle of W. 38th St. became an unassuming battle site in preserving the character of Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, as well as a telling example of how vigilance and activism can yield results.

The buildings — two of them standing four stories tall and one at three stories — were acquired by an entity controlled by Peter Poon, who bought out the tenants living in the building in order to demolish the complex. Poon hails from Peter F. Poon Architects, known for developing budget hotels — and applied to do just that. His Dec. 2014 application indicates that he planned a 22-floor hotel on the W. 38th St. site. Furthermore, another associated application to the Department of Buildings (DOB) indicated that the current W. 38th St. buildings were single room occupancies (SROs), which they have never been. The contractors (H&O Associates) also claimed that the proposed construction would not increase or decrease the number of residences, nor would it alter their layouts — clearly at odds with the proposed demolition.

Assembly Health Committee Update, 1/21/16

Assembly Health Committee Update

The Assembly Committee on Health favorably reported 22 bills at its first meeting of the 2016 session on January 21.

The Committee reported the bill to establish safe staffing requirements in hospitals and nursing homes (A8580, Gunther). The evidence is clear that having enough nurses on staff has a direct impact on the quality of patient care. Research published by the American Medical Association estimates five additional deaths per 1,000 patients in hospitals with an 8-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio compared to those with just a 4-to-1 ratio. More nurses per patient means fewer deaths and improves patient outcomes. It is well documented that hospitals with better staff ratios have lower rates of problems such as pneu­monia, shock, and cardiac arrest.

The ratios in the bill are based on academic and evidence-based studies. The Health Department could also set more demanding and specific ratios. California was the first state to mandate nurse staffing ratios and it has seen significant improvements in outcomes for both patients and staff.

For more information on a particular bill, please contact the sponsor listed after the description. For the text of a bill, supporting memorandum, and information on its status, go to:

Genetic Disease Screening and Counseling – Authorizes grants for familial dysautonomia, Canavan’s and Tay-Sachs disease screening and counseling. (A126, Dinowitz)

Adult Home Residents Right to Sue – Lets adult home residents go to court for a court-appointed receiver to operate the adult home when the operator has endangered the health, safety, or welfare of the residents. (A154A, Weinstein) 

Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter (Audio)

January 13, 2016

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosts his 2016 State of the State Address, which will also include the annual budget presentation.

Christine Quinn, the President and CEO of Women in Need, will weigh in on the Governor’s plan to address issues of homelessness in the state.

We will hear which healthcare issues are at the top of the Assembly’s list this session from Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried (D – Manhattan).

Mark Dunlea, Chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund, previews the State of the Climate, a rally at the Capitol for clean energy and a sustainable future.

Bruce Gyory of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips looks at key issues the Governor is likely to propose.

NY Times: First Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in New York Open

By Jesse McKinley and Eli Rosenberg, 1/7/16

ALBANY — New York joined the ranks of nearly half the states on Thursday in allowing the use of medical marijuana with the opening of eight dispensaries statewide, serving a variety of tinctures, concentrates, vapors and other forms of the drug.

How many patients actually received medicine from those dispensaries, however, was uncertain; several locations around the state had customers who entered, but it was not clear if any actually bought the drug, or were qualified to do so under the state’s strict guidelines. On Thursday, officials at the state’s Department of Health said that only 51 patients had been certified for the program thus far, though that process only began on Dec. 23 and requires the approval of a physician who has registered with the state.

Chelsea Now: Night of Notable Firsts for CB4

By Sean Egan, 1/15

BY SEAN EGAN | For many, the new year is a time for change, as well as reflection on the past. Community Board 4 (CB4) is no exception, as their Wed., Jan. 6 full board meeting at Mount Sinai West Hospital (1000 10th Ave., btw. W. 58th & W. 59th Sts.), was not only their first of 2016, but the first to feature recently elected officers enacting their roles — including the new Chair, Delores Rubin.

The meeting’s first portion, however, was devoted to the aforementioned reflection, as those in attendance honored the service and achievements of outgoing Chair, Christine Berthet (who remains a member of CB4).