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AG James gives $2.4M to Brooklyn Community Foundation to fund substance abuse treatment

Money recovered after Canarsie nonprofit pleaded guilty to fraud charges

March 4, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The New York State Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday provided more than $2.4 million to the Brooklyn Community Foundation to fund substance abuse treatment programs throughout Brooklyn

The funds are derived from charitable assets that remained after the Office of the Attorney General dissolved Canarsie A.W.A.R.E., a now-defunct nonprofit that provided outpatient substance abuse and mental health services — for its participation in a scheme that exploited some of New York’s most vulnerable residents and defrauded Medicaid.

In 2016, as a part of the Attorney General’s investigation into fraudulent substance abuse providers and their exploitation of individuals living in substance abuse transitional housing — also known as “three-quarter houses” — the OAG indicted Canarsie A.W.A.R.E. Inc. and its owner, charging them with defrauding Medicaid. 

In September 2018, Canarsie A.W.A.R.E. pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the first degree. In 2019, the Attorney General’s Office won a State Supreme Court order to dissolve Canarsie A.W.A.R.E. and distribute its assets for use by other substance abuse treatment programs. 

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The agreement between the Attorney General and the Brooklyn Community Foundation is connected to the OAG’s settlement of its claims against Canarsie A.W.A.R.E. Inc.

President and CEO Cecilia Clarke of the Brooklyn Community Foundation. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Community Foundation

“Substance abuse is a harmful and pervasive issue in so many of our communities,” said Attorney General James. “Although recovery is never an easy journey, it can 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. 

“I thank the Brooklyn Community Foundation for their partnership and dedication to helping New Yorkers access these lifesaving treatment services,” she said.

“We are deeply honored and excited to partner with the Office of the Attorney General to redistribute these funds in a way that will repair harm and provide vital resources to trusted and thoroughly vetted community-based health providers,” said Cecilia Clarke, president and CEO of Brooklyn Community Foundation (BCF). 

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

Under New York’s Not-for Profit Corporation Law, assets remaining after the dissolution of a non-profit organization must be distributed to another non-profit organization engaged in similar activities to those of the dissolving nonprofit. 

The Brooklyn Community Foundation will award grants to Brooklyn not-for-profit 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. 

The BCF will also conduct site visits to the grant recipients and monitor the recipients’ use of funds through regular reporting requirements and communications. It also will award the grants in each of three successive years, beginning in 2021.

“I am pleased that the Brooklyn Community Foundation will be offering grants to substance abuse treatment programs that will operate in our community,” said State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud (D-Southeast Brooklyn). “The services offered are much needed as we fight the scourge of addiction while helping people to uplift their lives.”

New York City Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo (D-Fort Greene-Clinton Hill-Prospect Heights) said, “Mental health and substance abuse are urgent issues that often go unaddressed due to stigma and lack of accessible resources, and 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. The Brooklyn Community Foundation, located in District 35, has provided over $50 million in grants to non-profit organizations throughout our community for over a decade,” she said.

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