Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said Sunday he recently completed an alcohol-treatment program, saying it was a “step I needed take for myself and for my family.”
Flanagan, who issued a statement Sunday after an inquiry by Newsday, said he recognized that “alcohol was becoming a crutch to deal with pressure I was under related to my responsibilities as Majority Leader of the New York State Senate.” The Republican entered a program last month, not long after the close of the 2017 regular legislative session. He told an ally he was back this week and in good spirits.
In his statement, Flanagan (R-East Northport) said he proactively “took control of the situation and sought immediate help so I could overcome it and move forward.”
“I took this step to ensure this dependency would not affect my ability to do my job or represent my constituents or the members of our Senate Republican Majority,” the senator said. “This is a step I needed to take for myself and for my family, and it will allow me to continue to serve and to give back to my community and state. . . . I would hope my actions serve as a reminder to all those who find that alcohol has become a means to confront personal or professional stress. It never has been and never will be.”
He concluded, sending a message to others with addiction: “No one is immune. Seek help and regain your personal pathway through life.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, tweeted in support of Flanagan after his rehab stint became public late Sunday afternoon.
“Alcoholism is a disease,” the governor wrote on Twitter. Flanagan “deserves our respect & support for seeking help & for talking about it as an example for others.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx, a Democrat, said in an email: “My thoughts are with John and his family and I wish him the best.”
In a tweet Sunday evening, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “NY Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is setting a brave example by getting help. We stand beside him in full support.”
Though the senator’s rehab might have caught some off guard, one source said that a relatively small group of people were not surprised. They were aware there was an issue, and were encouraged that Flanagan sought treatment, the source said.
“Those who are close knew,” the source said.
Flanagan, 56, has been a steadily rising star in Republican circles for decades.
The East Northport resident planned to practice law until his father, a state assemblyman, died in 1986 at age 50. Just 25 years old then, the younger Flanagan was elected to succeed his father that fall and went on to serve 16 years in the Assembly.
He was first elected to the Senate in the fall of 2002 and worked his way up from backbencher to chairman of the influential Education Committee in 2011. After then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2015, fellow senators forced Skelos to give up his leadership post. Flanagan edged Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) in a narrow vote largely along upstate/downstate lines to become head of the Senate.
Flanagan is one of three men — along with Cuomo and Heastie — who control the state budget and the flow of legislation in Albany.
In steering Senate Republicans through the close of three legislative sessions, Flanagan has made a point about fighting for education aid and charter schools.
With Nicole Fuller