On Thursday, New York Attorney General Letitia gave more than $2.4 million in funding to substance abuse treatment programs throughout Brooklyn.

The money was given to the Brooklyn Community Foundation to distribute to nonprofit programs serving one of the borough’s most vulnerable communities, and one that has been hard-hit by a reduction in services due to the pandemic.

AG James. Photo: Andrea Leonhardt for BK Reader.

In 2016, as a part of the OAG’s investigation into fraudulent substance abuse providers and their exploitation of those living in substance abuse transitional housing, the OAG indicted Canarsie A.W.A.R.E. Inc and its owner for defrauding Medicaid. In 2018, Canarsie A.W.A.R.E. pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the first degree.

The funds have come from fraudulent charity Canarsie A.W.A.R.E, which was shut down by the AG’s Office after it was found to be exploiting vulnerable residents and defrauding Medicaid. As per New York law, assets remaining from the dissolution of a nonprofit must be distributed to another nonprofit involved in similar activities.

James said substance abuse was a harmful and pervasive issue in many of the borough’s communities, and although recovery was never an easy journey, it could be a lot easier with access to reliable treatment programs.

“Today’s agreement ensures that these funds will finally be used in the manner in which they were intended — to support some of our most vulnerable communities,” James said. “I thank the Brooklyn Community Foundation for their partnership and dedication to helping New Yorkers access these lifesaving treatment services.”

Brooklyn Community Foundation President and CEO Cecilia Clarke said the organization was honored and excited to partner with the James’ office to redistribute the funds in a way that would, “repair harm and provide vital resources to trusted and thoroughly vetted community-based health providers.”

“Brooklyn Community Foundation’s approach centers community members as key decision-makers to invest in organizations that share our commitment to racial justice,” Clarke said. “We hope this partnership will serve as a powerful new model for government and foundation collaboration.”

BCF will award grants to Brooklyn nonprofit providers of substance abuse treatment. The funds will support treatment programs providing technical assistance and capacity-building support to the grant recipients, including assistance with fundraising, financial management and strategic planning. BCF will also regularly monitor the grant recipients’ use of funds. Grants will be awarded over three years, beginning this year.

New York City Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo said mental health and substance abuse were urgent issues that often went unaddressed due to stigma and lack of accessible resources. She cited the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reports that in 2019, more than six million Black Americans suffered from a mental health illness and or substance abuse issue.

“COVID-19 has further deepened the mental health and substance abuse crises our communities are facing. Although it is gravely disappointing when patients are victimized by organizations meant to help them, I could not think of a better organization to recover funds from Canarsie’s A.W.A.R.E program.”

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