Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez, MS, LMSW, was appointed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on January 3, 2011 and unanimously confirmed by the New York State Senate on March 1, 2011 as Commissioner of the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). Commissioner González-Sánchez is a member of the Governor’s Cabinet and the single state authority overseeing one of the nation’s premier addiction services systems, with more than 1600 programs that serve over 100,000 New Yorkers daily.
Commissioner González-Sánchez brings to OASAS more than 30 years of experience in the field of behavioral health administration, policy development, medical research, as well as her expertise in integrating accessible systems of care for New Yorkers. Under her executive leadership, OASAS is committed to providing quality care for the estimated 2.5 million New Yorkers who struggle with an addiction through a core system of prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
The Commissioner’s overall vision is to transform a fragmented system of care into a comprehensive, integrated, patient-centered, family-focused system that is accessible and responsive to the multiple and complex needs of today’s behavioral health population. The Affordable Care Act and Governor Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign are revolutionizing health care in New York State. Under Commissioner González-Sánchez leadership, OASAS will be moving Medicaid reimbursed services into managed care and integrating substance use disorder, mental health and physical health services into a cohesive system of care. As part of her work to accomplish this goal, Commissioner González-Sánchez has worked alongside the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) to implement the recommendations of Governor Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT). These recommendations will create efficient services for patients with substance use disorder and the family members who care for them that are patient-centered and recovery-oriented.
Commissioner González-Sánchez has implemented several priorities focused on high-quality care and services for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Her priorities include establishing an effective, science-based system that integrates prevention, treatment and recovery; serving as the state resource on addiction and leading the nation in the field of chemical dependency and problem gambling prevention, treatment, and recovery; fighting prescription drug misuse; promoting the availability of permanent supportive housing; attracting, selecting, and developing system-wide talent and ensuring a system with strong return on taxpayer investment and stewardship of resources.
As the Commissioner of the single state authority for addiction, she has established the Enhanced Oversight and Monitoring Initiative to improve programmatic and fiscal accountability and quality service delivery throughout the OASAS system. She is a strong advocate for integration and coordination of substance abuse, mental health and physical health services to improve system efficiencies and support outcomes that benefit patients, families, and communities.
To help ensure that culturally competent services are available to address the specific needs of various populations, Commissioner González-Sánchez has been instrumental in the establishment of numerous helpful programs for these communities. This includes first-of-its-kind adolescent substance use disorder clubhouses and recovery centers in various counties across the state such as The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York City and The Pillars Recovery Center in Harlem. She also provided funding and support for multiple youth clubhouses and one recovery center serving the Native American Community. Additionally, she expanded specialized outreach by launching the educational program “Nueva Esperanza, Nueva Vida con OASAS” which aired in Spanish on Telemundo and Univision. This programming was the preface for the “New Hope, New Life with OASAS” television broadcast which was developed for a broader audience to inform and educate New Yorkers about addiction prevention and recovery services, substance use disorder and the reduction of the associated shame and stigma.
Commissioner González-Sánchez is a member of several state commissions, including serving as a member of the Project Approval and Oversight Panel of the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program (DSRIP) and also serves as chair of the Inter-Office Coordinating Council (IOCC), which collaborates on ways to improve and coordinate services for people with multiple needs by OASAS, The NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). She is also a member of the New York State Behavioral Health Services Advisory Council (BHSAC), the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council and the Employment First Commission.
Commissioner González-Sánchez is also a member of the Statewide Task Force to Combat Heroin and the Prescription Opioid Crisis, which was established in 2016, and has worked to implement numerous services throughout New York State to address the opioid crisis.
Commissioner González-Sánchez also serves on the Governor’s Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission; the Not-For-Profit Task Force, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, the Opioid Steering Committee; the Advisory Council on Underage Alcohol Consumption and Youth Substance Abuse; the Health Systems Improvement for a Tobacco-Free New York Statewide Stakeholder Workgroup; the Mental Hygiene Planning Committee; RX Stat; The Interagency Geriatric Mental Health and Chemical Dependence Planning Council; the Research Foundation for Mental Health; the New York Violent Death Reporting System Advisory Board; the Interagency LGBT Task Force; the Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking; the Anti-Poverty Task Force; the Domestic Violence Advisory Council; the Homeless Housing and Assistance Corporation; the NY IV/Housing Workgroup; the Commissioners Cross Systems Youth Committee; the Council on Children and Families and the New York State Council on
Veterans, Military Members and their Families; the NYS Antimicrobial Resistance Prevention and Control Task Force; and a member of a workgroup to draft legislation for a regulated adult-use cannabis program. Governor Cuomo also appointed Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez as Member of the Council for SUNY Empire State College to serve until June 2024.
She is also co-chair of the Responsible Play Partnership which addresses problem gambling in New York State, and a member of the State Health Innovation Plan (SHIP) Council which will identify and stimulate the spread of promising innovations in health care delivery and finance that result in optimal health outcomes for all New Yorkers.
On the national level, Commissioner González-Sánchez serves as the First Vice President of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD) Board. In July 2013, she served as an Advisory Board member for the National Hispanic and Latino Addiction Technology Transfer Centers (ATTCs), which endeavors to develop and strengthen the workforce that provides addictions treatment and recovery support services to the Hispanic/Latino population in the United States.
Among her many professional achievements, she is the recipient of numerous awards such as the Public Service Leadership Award from 100 Hispanic Women, Inc. National; the Exceptional Leadership and Support of Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Award from NASADAD; the Outstanding State Member Awardee from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA); the Women’s History Month Award from New York City’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; a Special Recognition Award at the Entre Nosotros Luncheon, Somos el Futuro; the Outstanding Support to the Latino Effort from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC NY); was named one of the Top 100 Influentials by Hispanic Business Magazine; received the Public Service Leadership Award from the Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies; the Improving Lives Award from the Sports Foundation, the Extraordinary Leadership in Expanding Opioid Services Award from the Coalition of Medication Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates; Top Leaders in the Profession Award from the National Association of Social Workers; Outstanding Public Official from Friends of Recovery NY, and The Dedication to Excellence Award from National Conference of Puerto Rican Women.
She has also received the Hispanic Health Leadership Award from the National Hispanic Health Foundation (NHHF); the Mujeres Destascadas Award from El Diario La Prensa; the Marshall England Memorial Public Health Award from the Commission on the Public’s Health System (CPHS); the US Congressional Award presented by Congressman Edolphus Towns; and the City Citation and Community Civic Award from City Councilman Albert Vann. She was the first Commissioner of OASAS to be given the honor of ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange to launch National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.
In 2018, Commissioner González-Sánchez received the 11th annual Ramstad/Kennedy Award. This national award recognizes a single state authority leader for their efforts to support recovery. She was nominated by FOR-NY and Legal Action Center and voted by her peers within NASADAD to receive the award.
Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez was named to City & State’s 2020 Health Power List (15th) which includes 100 of the most powerful people in the health care community. She was also named to their 2019 Nonprofit Power 100 List (34th) which honors the 100 most influential people working in nonprofit organizations focusing on civil rights, criminal justice, health care, education, immigration, and legal services.
Before coming to OASAS, Ms. González-Sánchez was Commissioner of the newly formed Nassau County Department of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency, and Developmental Disabilities Services on Long Island which was created by the merger of the Nassau County Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Developmental Disabilities, and the Nassau County Department of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Services. Under her executive leadership, the new Department of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency, and Developmental Disabilities Services was committed to improving the quality of care and service delivery, while also improving the quality of life for all Nassau County residents.
Ms. González-Sánchez has a Master of Social Work degree in Administration/Community Organization from the Hunter College School of Social Work, as well as a Master of Science degree in Cell Biology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Fordham University.
Ms. González-Sánchez also held a faculty appointment at Cornell University Medical College as an Associate Research Scientist, where she spent eight years in the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy performing cardiac and molecular biology research. She is the author of numerous scientific publications in medical journals and textbooks and has received recognition for her early work on DNA sequencing and cloning. She is also a Licensed Master Social Worker.