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What is the Step Two Policy Project?

The Step Two Policy Project (Step Two) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that focuses on policy issues involving health, behavioral health, and human services in New York State. We analyze these policy challenges through subject matter experts who have experience with how these issues could be addressed by New York State government policies. Our strategy is to leverage the efforts of a small not-for-profit think tank by explicitly connecting our insights to specific policy proposals that could be enacted and implemented by New York State government.

Step Two can contribute to policy development by combining subject matter expertise and experience with New York State government with focused and independent analysis. In some cases, Step Two may work directly with State agencies to help develop and implement policy proposals. The Step Two Policy Project is not a consulting firm, and it will have no clients, so our recommendations can be free of conflicts. Where it makes sense, we will advocate for the adoption and implementation of specific proposals and promising ideas. In other situations, we will publish research and analysis that can form the basis for policy development and specific proposals. Whenever possible, we will collaborate with others who are working to solve the same underlying problems.

Who We Are

The Step Two Policy Project was founded by Paul Francis in 2023. After a 25-year career in the private sector, including serving as a lawyer at Skadden Arps, a managing director at Merrill Lynch, and as the CFO of Ann Taylor Stores Corporation and, Paul spent most of the last 18 years working full time in New York State government and politics. He served in various roles under four different governors, including as the Director of the Division of the Budget and the Director of State Operations before spending the last eight years in New York’s Health and Human Services portfolio, first as the Deputy Secretary for Health and Human Services under Governor Andrew Cuomo and later as a Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the Department of Health.

The Executive Director of Step Two is Sally Dreslin, a registered nurse who after almost 20 years of clinical practice, nursing education, and advocacy work on behalf of nurses, served in various roles over a period of nine years in New York State government, including as the Assistant Secretary for Health for Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Executive Deputy Commissioner of the NYS Department of Health, and as the Director of Operations for the Office of the Chief Medical Officer at the NYS Office of Mental Health.

Guiding Principles

While our work will cover a wide range of programmatic issues, the work will be guided by these principles and objectives:

  • Secure incremental progress: We share the view that being a progressive is measured by making real progress. after many years in New York state government, our observation is that incremental progress can be enacted and implemented in many areas if backed by focused effort, a persuasive analysis demonstrating the programmatic benefits of the proposal, combined in certain cases with an advocacy push to overcome parochial objections to change.


  • Think outside the box on deep structural challenges: While it is true that in some cases the problem is not identifying the solution, but making it a reality, the State’s largest challenges often require a new paradigm to cut the gordian knot of seemingly intractable problems. Our belief is that we can contribute to the policy debate by thinking outside the box to develop ambitious solutions, even if it takes time for a consensus to build in support of new approaches. Just laying out the facts and making an empirical case for a new paradigm can prove valuable in and of itself.


  • Demonstrate financial sustainability: Effective and actionable policy proposals must be grounded in financial sustainability. A major focus of the Step Two Policy Project will be to demonstrate that its policy proposals meet the test of financial sustainability. Healthcare affordability, on the one hand, and access and financial sustainability of the healthcare delivery system, on the other hand, are two sides of the same coin.


  • Democratize the availability of health data, information, and analysis:  Our belief is that data transparency, which in turn enables the development of useful health information and the democratization of policy analysis, is an indispensable element of improved public policy and better functioning of the health care delivery system. Critical data about healthcare delivery in New York is often opaque, which makes it difficult for both policymakers and outside analysts to diagnose systemic problems and design effective solutions. Step Two can contribute to this goal of democratization of analysis through transparency and availability of useful health information by developing a roadmap for reform. We will also make sure that our own analyses offer as much transparency as possible about the data and assumptions being used.

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