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NY Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan Treated For Alcohol Dependency

New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is being praised across party lines for publicly admitting he has a substance abuse problem.

Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican, issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying he received treatment for alcoholism after realizing that drinking was becoming a "crutch" to deal with the pressures of his job. The 56-year-old was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and was appointed to lead the chamber in 2015, following thearrest of former leader Dean Skelos.

Dr. Jennifer Michaels, Medical Director of Pittsfields's  Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services,  lends credence to Flanagan's statement "no one is immune to alcohol dependency."  "People are genetically pre-disposed. We know it runs in families. We know there are environmental factors, and stress is certainly one of them. When people are genetically pre-disposed and throw on a layer of extreme stress, it's like a double whammy that increases the likelihood that people will turn to alcohol to deal with their issues."

The Albany Times Union reported the statement was released following queries from Newsday.

Alan Chartock is a longtime capital watcher and WAMC's political observer.  "Alcoholism is a very serious problem in the United States and many many people have it. However, it is interesting that he has chosen to make this a public issue. Quite often, David, when people do that, they're about to be outed one way or another or they're afraid that they're gonna be outed, so they make a public announcement of it. You gotta give him credit for it. Frankly, he is not alone. There's a worldwide problem with alcoholism which is probably is responsible for more deaths than war."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted that Flanagan, who has publicly considered his own run for governor, deserves "respect and support" for seeking help. Capital Region state Senator George Amedore echoed those sentiments.  "Openness and honesty is important as we continue our efforts to break the stigma of addiction. I applaud his willingness to lead by example in his own life."

Flanagan expressed hope that his public disclosure will serve as a reminder to others struggling with a drinking problem. A Senate GOP source told the Daily News that Flanagan has no plans to step down as leader. And Flanagan released a statement Monday opposing aplan floated by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasioto tax high earners to fund subway repairs.


Earlier this week, I spoke at length with Beth Garvey, Counsel to the Senate Republican Majority, and she communicated to me her desire to step away from the position.

Beth is a true professional who juggled many difficult tasks over the course of more than 4 years in this position, and she has always served our conference with passion and with dedication. She was an integral part of the work our Senate Republican Majority accomplished on behalf of the hardworking taxpayers and families of New York.

I thank Beth for her commitment to the Senate and to the people of this state. She will remain on for approximately six weeks to ensure a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition. A determination on her replacement will be made in the coming weeks, but I am confident that we have a number of top staffers with the experience and institutional knowledge to ably lead us forward, starting with Shawn MacKinnon, Secretary of Senate Finance and a two-decades-plus veteran of the Senate. In the meantime, Beth deserves our thanks and our gratitude for a job well done.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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