Save June 4th for Rockland County Forum on Home and Community Based Services!

NYAPRS Note: In collaboration with the NYS Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors, the Mid-Hudson Regional Planning Consortium, Rockland County government, area MHA and NAMI affiliates & BRiDGES Independent Living Center, NYAPRS’ New Choices in Recovery project is hosting a public forum on June 4th at the Palisades Center Mall aimed at engaging, educating and encouraging eligible individuals to enroll in Health and Recovery Plans, Health Homes and Home and Community based Services. Please spread the word!



lunch will be provided  


See Details Below


Please join us and help recovering people and care managers to come together and

connect people with these life changing opportunities!


rockland forum 6-4-19.jpg


NYAPRS Note: You can help win passage of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act by participating in a national call in Day next Wednesday May 29. Please see below for details! For more about the HALT bill, go to Thank you!



The #HALTsolitary bill HAS the votes to pass…

but leadership HAS NOT yet brought it to the floor

SO VOTERS must demand it!

Join a mass call-in

TODAY 5/29/19

Our goal is 1000+ calls


With 33 cosponsors in the Senate & 79 in the Assembly & others committed to vote YES…

the time to act is NOW!




1.Call Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins       (518) 455-2585 and tell her:


“Thousands of New Yorkers are suffering in solitary confinement for months, years, and decades. The HALT Solitary Confinement Act (S1623/A2500) has 33 Senate cosponsors and others committed to vote for it. Respectfully, I urge you to bring HALT to a vote now (as is, without watering down its protections), so we can finally end this torture. Do not let another mind or life be taken by this inhumane treatment. Thank you.”

2. Tell Assembly Speaker Heastie (518) 455-3791:


“Thousands of New Yorkers are still suffering in solitary confinement for months, years, and decades. Thank you for your leadership in supporting the HALT Solitary Confinement Act (A2500/S1623). We appreciate that the Assembly passed HALT last year and that you continue to support the bill. I respectfully urge you to again bring HALT to a vote now (as is, without  watering down its protections), so we can finally end this torture. Do not let another mind or life be taken by this inhumane practice. Thank you again.”


3. Call Your Own Senator (find at

Find Your State Legislators - Open States

Find Your Legislators Look your state legislators up by address or use your current location.



“Thousands of New Yorkers are suffering in solitary confinement for months, years, and decades. Thank you for your support of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act (S1623/A2500). We need you to end this torture by telling the Leadership that HALT is a priority and that you want them to bring the bill to a vote now (as is, without watering down its protections). Do not let another mind or life be taken by this inhumane practice. Thank you!”


HALT is NYS Senate’s Top Criminal Justice Priority: Bailey; Get Ready for May 29th HALT Call In Day

NYAPRS Note: With just under a month to go till legislative session’s end, a top Senate leader says that the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act is the top criminal justice priority for the NYS Senate Democratic majority. There are enough votes in both houses to pass the bill and send it to Governor Cuomo.

Next Thursday May 30 is Mental Health Advocacy Day for the HALT bill. Representatives from state mental health advocacy groups will be joining state mental health committee chairs and HALT sponsors to emphasize the terrible mental impact of solitary confinement, HALT"s ban on its use for people with disabilities and to call for the bill’s prompt passage.

You can support those efforts by participating in a Wednesday May 29th HALT Call in Day. See next posting for details. Thank you!

Bail Reform Done, Lawmakers Look At More Criminal Justice Bills

Decreasing solitary confinement, parole reform among issues being considered.

By JEFF COLTIN City & State  MAY 23, 2019


The budget brought major bail reforms, and changed the discovery process and speedy trial statutes to benefit criminal defendants. This month, New York passed a law that could allow more leniency for domestic violence victims convicted of hurting their abusive partners. A bill awaits the governor’s signature that would criminalize the creation and selling of untraceable, 3D-printed “ghost guns.” And advocates are pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign another bill that would legalize the carrying of so-called gravity knives, often used in building trades.


But there are still a number of criminal justice reforms that are being considered before the end of session.


HALT Solitary Confinement Act (S1623 – Sepúlveda/A2500 – Aubry)

This bill would place constraints on the use of solitary confinement in jails and prisons across the state, which is currently unlimited. It’s been pushed by reformers since 2013, passed the Assembly last year, and looks likely to pass both houses in this year of united Democratic government. State Senate Codes Committee Chairman Jamaal Bailey calling it the conference’s top criminal justice priority.


Repeal 50-a (S3695 – Bailey/A2513 – O’Donnell)

This bill would repeal the law that keeps secret police, fire and emergency workers’ personnel records, which reformers say has hidden bad behavior by police and how departments deal with it. Debate has raged for years. The recent internal trial of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo has gotten the issue more attention.


Special prosecutors for police killings of civilians (S2574A – Bailey/A1601A – Perry)

In 2015, Cuomo passed Executive Order 147, which empowered the state Attorney General’s office to investigate any case of law enforcement killing an unarmed civilian. This bill would codify that into law and expand the AG’s jurisdiction to any case where a civilian dies during an encounter with law enforcement. Cuomo has pushed for a similar proposal, so something like it will pass, but reformers say the governor’s language doesn’t go far enough.


Blue Lives Matter (S335 – Akshar/A5065 – Abbate)

This bill would make attacking first responders like police officers a hate crime, and passed out of the Senate Codes Committee earlier this month. Criminal justice reformers are opposed, but it has earned some bipartisan support, and Cuomo supported a similar provision to increase penalties on assaults against journalists. despite its Republican sponsorship.


Criminal record relief for trafficking victims (S4981 – Ramos/A6983 – Gottfried)

This is one of a number of bills being considered to lessen the penalties of sex work, and the most likely become law. It would clear the criminal records of certain trafficking victims who were convicted of crimes like prostitution. It’s expected to pass the state Senate soon, but is still in the Assembly Codes Committee.


Police STAT Act (S1830B – Hoylman/A5472 – Lentol)

This bill would require police departments and court systems to provide detailed data on low-level arrests and the racial and geographic breakdown of people arrested. Criminal justice reformers say it would put racially biased departments on alert, but police unions say the data would lack context, and serves an “anti-police narrative.” The bill passed the Assembly the last three years, but is one of the many bills that’s been edited and re-introduced now that the Democrats control both houses of the Legislature.


Parole reform

The Legislature is considering a variety of bills that would change the system of letting New Yorkers out of prison. Cuomo has endorsed some, including “geriatric parole” to parole individuals over 55 with serious medical conditions. Some lawmakers and advocates want to expand that option to any prisoner over 55. Also on the table are a bill that would make more prisoners eligible for release on parole regardless of age and a bill to lessen the impact of technical violations of parole.



M H Care Private Insurance Claims on the Rise: Stat

NYAPRS Note: One likely impact of federal Parity and Affordable Care Act legislation.


Mental Health Care Accounts For a Growing Number of Private Insurance Claims, Report Finds

By Megan Thielking  Stat  May 17, 2019


Mental health care is accounting for a growing number of private insurance claims, according to a new report1 out Friday. But experts caution that more than anything else, the new data underscores just how tricky it is to tease out what’s driving increases in mental health care use.


The report found that claims related to depression, anxiety, and a handful of other mental health conditions are on the rise. There were notable increases in those claims among young people, who accounted for a disproportionate share of mental health claims. Experts said the findings could reflect increased access to treatment — but cautioned that it’s difficult to determine the factors at play.


“It’s very hard to disentangle [increased prevalence] from increased recognition, more people accessing care, and people being willing to fill out forms more honestly,” said Dr. Stephen Strakowski, a psychiatrist at the University of Texas at Austin’s medical school. Strakowski, who leads the school’s Center for Youth Mental Health, was not involved in the report.


The report is based on data from FAIR Health, a health care nonprofit with a database of more than 28 billion private health care claim records that the organization said represents 75% of the private insurance market. The authors looked at health insurance claims for behavioral health care, which included both mental health care and substance use disorder treatment. They broke the data down by individual claim lines. A single health care visit can involve multiple claim lines, like a chest X-ray and a breathing treatment.


And while experts said the report comes with caveats, it offers a long-term picture of mental health care use among people with private insurance coverage in the U.S.


“This allows us to take out a glass-bottomed boat into this ocean of claims and be able to document claims associated with [mental health care] trends,” said Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health.


The report’s findings among adolescents and young adults were particularly striking. Mental health claims also rose among young people, which the report defined as age 22 or younger. The report also found that young people accounted for a growing share of the claims for major depressive disorder. In 2007, young people accounted for 15% of all claims tied to serious depression. By 2017, they accounted for 23%.


Claims for anxiety also grew more common among young people. Between 2007 and 2017, claim lines for generalized anxiety disorder rose 441% among young people ages 19 to 22. Anxiety-related claims also rose significantly among teens and children.


The report also found that claim lines with behavioral health diagnoses rose 108% from 2007 and 2017. By 2017, they accounted for 2.7% of all medical claim lines in FAIR Health’s database. The most common diagnosis among those mental health claims: major depressive disorder, which constituted 26% of mental health claim lines in 2017. Claim lines for generalized anxiety disorder also climbed significantly during that time.


The findings come with several significant limitations, including that they don’t include people with public insurance coverage or the uninsured. The report also doesn’t detail what types of providers billed for the services or how often people accessed mental health care.


“Even if someone accesses an initial appointment, that doesn’t mean they’re getting adequate treatment. They might go to one therapy appointment, or fill an antidepressant prescription once,” said Dr. Ana Radovic, an adolescent medicine specialist at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh who wasn’t involved in the report.


Experts said there are likely a slew of factors contributing to the increase in mental health care claims among young people. There’s increased awareness about mental health issues and how to identify them. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended universal screening for depression for adolescents age 12 and older. At the same time, clinicians said the stigma around seeking help for

some mental health conditions seems to be declining.


“There’s more attention to recognizing the condition, and more attention to improving access to mental health care for kids,” said Strakowski.


Policy changes could also be at play, experts said. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, passed by Congress in 2008, required many insurers to cover mental health and addiction treatment the same way they would medical or surgical care. And the Affordable Care Act allowed young people to stay on their parents insurance through age 26.


“What we’re seeing now is people who need care are more likely to get care,” Strakowski said. But he and other experts noted that there are still serious obstacles to accessing mental health care for many people in the U.S.


“There’s still a lack of people getting services that they need,” Radovic said.


Trump Administration Backs off Proposal to Let Medicare Plans Exclude MH, Other Drugs

Trump Administration Backs Off a Proposal to Let Medicare Plans Exclude Certain Drugs

By Nicholas Florko  Stat+  May 16, 2019


WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is backing off a controversial proposal1 to chip away at existing safeguards that require Medicare to cover all drugs for conditions like depression and AIDS.


The initial proposal, which would have allowed private Medicare plans to refuse to pay for certain drugs for chronic conditions that spiked in price, was met with widespread criticism almost as soon as it was proposed last November. The Trump administration had suggested the change would help lower drug prices by giving private Medicare plans more leverage over high-cost drugs. But patient advocates and drug makers said it would jeopardize patient care in life-threatening situations.


The policy was one of the first concrete drug pricing proposals the administration unveiled after it put out a sweeping and largely aspirational “drug pricing blueprint” earlier in 2018 — and its decision to roll back the idea is the first time the Trump administration has retreated on one of its drug pricing pitches.


“The agency appreciates the feedback received on this issue and has chosen not to finalize the proposed changes to its protected classes policy at this time, but rather is codifying existing policy,” a CMS press release stated.


Under current law, Medicare is required to cover “all or substantially all” drugs in six specific classes: 1) antidepressants; 2) antipsychotics; 3) anticonvulsants; 4) immunosuppressants for treatment of transplant rejection; 5) antiretrovirals; and 6) antineoplastics. The Trump administration’s proposal would have allowed private Medicare plans to not cover certain drugs in these categories when the drug had increased in price more than inflation, or in cases where it was a new version of an already covered drug.


HHS Secretary Alex Azar insisted when the proposal was first unveiled that it would “save money for taxpayers and seniors, improve access to expensive drugs many seniors need, and expand their choice of plans.”


But the idea inflamed drug makers and patient groups. So much so that the American Cancer Society’s advocacy arm and a coalition of other groups spent six figures on ads claiming the policy would “put patients’ lives at risk.”


“Medicare beneficiaries with the most complex, chronic conditions are breathing a sign of relief,” said Chuck Ingoglia, executive director of the Partnership for Part D Access, a coalition of drug makers and patient advocacy organizations that also opposed the proposal. “This rule cements Medicare’s protected classes policy as an essential patient safeguard in Medicare’s prescription drug program.”


The regulation released Thursday did, however, codify a number of other small tweaks to the Medicare drug pricing system, including a ban on so-called pharmacy gag clauses, which prevented pharmacists from telling patients when it’s cheaper to pay for a drug without insurance. Congress passed a similar law last year. Thursday’s final rule also set in stone a new requirement that paperwork sent from insurers to patients after a procedure must include information about drug prices.

Sept 24-26 for NYAPRS Annual Conference at the Villa Roma Resort!

Please save September 24-26 to attend this fall’s NYAPRS Annual Conference at the Villa Roma Resort in Callicoon, NY!

The Villa Roma is a lovely Catskill Mountain site that can welcome all comers without any need for an overflow site: everyone will be together throughout our one of a kind immersion into the inspiring, informative celebratory event that is the NYAPRS Annual Conference.

Look for Registration Link, Call for Presentation in the coming days!


Cuomo: $5.25M to Expand Access to MAT in Clinics, Hospital EDs

Governor Cuomo Announces $5.25 Million in Funding to Facilitate and Expand Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Primary Care Clinics and Hospital Emergency Departments

$3.5 Million Awarded to Provide Medication Assisted Treatment and Related Services in Federally Qualified Health Centers

$1.75 Million Awarded to Facilitate Buprenorphine Induction in Hospital Emergency Departments


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $5.25 million in funding to facilitate and expand access to medication assisted treatment in hospital emergency departments and primary care clinics. The funding was awarded through a series of requests for applications issued by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and was provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


"New York State is committed to ensuring each and every New Yorker suffering from substance use disorder has access to the addiction treatment and support they need," Governor Cuomo said. "This critical funding will strengthen life-saving services offered across the state and will help us continue our ongoing efforts to support people on their road to recovery."


"This funding is an essential component of our strategy to combat the opioid epidemic and ensure more New Yorkers have access to the care they need," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Co-Chair of the NYS Heroin and Opioid Task Force, who made today's announcement. "Countless families across the state have seen the tragic consequences of addiction. With support from OASAS and SAMHSA, health care providers in every region will now be able to expand the use of medication treatments and effective strategies to save lives."


Providing medication assisted treatment (MAT) entails using medications in combination with education, counseling and/or behavioral therapies as appropriate, to treat substance use disorders. MAT is the standard of care for opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment in New York and is safe and effective.


"Access to the appropriate treatment is life-changing and critical in achieving recovery," said OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez. "These awards will expand access to important care and enable those who are fighting addiction to receive the medication needed to help them succeed and live happy and productive lives."


"With these initiatives, New York State is continuing to expand opportunities for people with addiction to get the services they need," said Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health. "Providing medication for addiction treatment in primary care clinics and hospital emergency departments is a safe and effective way to start people on the road to recovery."


The initiatives announced today are funded through a grant awarded to New York State by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a federal agency. They complement and expand on other statewide efforts, such as the 12 drug use health hubs located throughout the state and operated by the New York State Department of Health's AIDS Institute Office of Drug User Health. The hubs improve the availability and accessibility of an array of appropriate health, mental health, and addiction services, including MAT.


OASAS is issuing 10 awards of $350,000 to federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) to help the centers establish opioid use disorder services, including increasing prescriber capacity, counseling, behavioral therapies, and recovery supports. Staff will be trained on the utilization of all three FDA-approved addiction medications. One award will be issued to a FQHC in each of the 10 Empire State Development Regions. FQHCs must partner with at least one OASAS-certified provider to receive funding. The following FQHC programs were selected to receive awards, with the OASAS-certified providers listed in parentheses.

  • Capital District: Schenectady Family Health Services Hometown Health Centers (Conifer Park)

  • Central NY: East Hill Family Medical Inc. (Confidential Help for Alcohol and Drugs)

  • Finger Lakes: Oak Orchard Health (Genesee Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse)

  • Long Island: Long Island FQHC Inc. (Family and Children's Association & Family Service League)

  • Mid-Hudson Valley: Hudson River HealthCare (Lexington Center for Recovery)

  • Mohawk Valley: Rochester Primary Care Network (The Beacon Center)

  • New York City: Joseph P Addabbo Family Health Center (RevCore Recovery Center); La Casa De Salud Inc. (PROMESA)

  • Southern Tier: The Finger Lakes Migrant Health CareProject, Inc. (CASA-Trinity)

  • Western NY: Neighborhood Health Center (Best Self Behavioral Health & Evergreen Health)


In addition, five awards of $350,000 are being distributed to expand the availability of buprenorphine to treat addiction in emergency departments. Emergency departments will partner with an OASAS-certified outpatient program to train emergency department staff on administering MAT, train staff on how to screen for and respond to instances of opioid misuse, and train staff on linking patients with peers and community-based treatment providers. Priority for awards was given to programs in areas of high unmet need. This effort builds on recent funding the New York State Department of Health provided to 24 local health departments to increase access to buprenorphine, with requirements for each department to conduct two provider waiver trainings in their county.

The following emergency department programs were selected to receive funding:


Long Island

  • Long Island Community Hospital

  • Northwell Health

  • South Nassau Community Hospital


Mid-Hudson Valley

  • Ellenville Regional Hospital


New York City

  • Jacobi Medical Center


Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has instituted an aggressive, multi-pronged approach to addressing the opioid epidemic, and created a nation-leading continuum of addiction care with full prevention, treatment, and recovery services. To combat this epidemic, the Governor has worked to expand access to traditional services, including crisis services, inpatient, outpatient, and residential treatment programs, as well as medication assisted treatment, and mobile treatment and transportation services.


In 2016, Governor Cuomo's Heroin Task Force recommended new, non-traditional services, including recovery centers, youth clubhouses, expanded peer services, and 24/7 open access centers, which provide immediate assessments and referrals to care. These services have since been established in numerous communities around the state, and have helped people in need access care closer to where they live.


The Governor has advanced legislative and regulatory reform to enable people to get treatment faster by eliminating many insurance restrictions, as well as legislation to reduce most opioid prescriptions from 30 days to seven days, and legislation to increase training and education for prescribers. Governor Cuomo has also taken action to combat patient brokering and fraudulent addiction treatment services.


The Governor has also worked to increase training and availability of naloxone, resulting in more than 300,000 individuals in New York State being trained and equipped with the opioid overdose reversal medication. Through Governor Cuomo's actions, pharmacies around New York State are now able to provide naloxone without a prescription.


New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).

Available addiction treatment including crisis/detox, inpatient, community residence, or outpatient care can be found using the NYS OASAS Treatment Availability Dashboard at or through the NYS OASAS website.


Visit to learn more about the warning signs of addiction, review information on how to get help, and access resources on how to facilitate conversations with loved ones and communities about addiction. For tools to use in talking to a young person about preventing alcohol or drug use, visit the state's Talk2Prevent website.

OM: 12 Innovative Ideas To Improve Recruitment & Retention

12 Innovative Ideas To Improve Recruitment & Retention

By Sarah C. Threnhauser   Open Minds  May 16, 2019  


Developed by OPEN MINDS, 163 York Street, Gettysburg PA 17325,  All rights reserved.


Earlier this month, I attended the Lutheran Services In America Annual Conference in Chicago. At the event, like at many others I’ve attended over the past few years, there was one key topic that kept coming up again and again—staff recruitment and retention. During sessions, during networking conversations, during discussions among attendees, the conversation always circled back to the workforce challenges that are, in many ways, holding organizations back. We’ve covered these workforce issues, and some potential solutions, in the past: Workforce Shortages As A Strategy IssueWorkforce Problems? Technology As Strategy; and Recruit, Engage, Retain, Repeat—How To ‘Sell’ Your Organization In A Tight Labor Market.


Throughout the event, I heard some new and creative solutions to the staffing challenge from many different types of specialty provider organizations—some you may already be implementing within your organization, some you may have thought about trying, and some may be totally new. Here are 12 interesting ideas that are working for many organizations:


Implement specific policies to increase manager/staff interaction – An employee that feels respected and valued is more likely to stay with their organization. In the rush of day-to-day management that can be difficult, so it’s important for organizations to create policies that encourage meaningful daily interaction among all employees and their supervisors. One organization discussed their policy of encouraging supervisors to “round on employees,” meaning that every day the supervisor needs to check in with every one of their direct reports, much like a physician rounding on their patients in a hospital (see New Hanover Regional Medical Center Physician Group: The Impact of Leader Rounding on Patients, Employees, & Providers and Four Strategies to Improve Leader Rounding).


Centralize and optimize your recruiting strategy – In a tight job market, you can’t afford to have an inefficient process. If you drag things out or are unresponsive, people will accept other positions and you can miss out on potentially great hires. Several organizations suggested centralizing the recruiting process (rather than leaving recruiting in the hands of individual departments or teams) and building a clear hiring process that utilizes technology and automation wherever possible.


Formalize training for interviewers so that you hire the right people – Make sure you are hiring the right people by training interviewers on what questions to ask and what responses to look for during the hiring process. There is also predictive software that can be used to help rank potential employees and help guide your team to find the right hires.


Standardize your on-boarding process – Most employees leave within three to six months of their start date, so if you can get them over that initial stretch, they are more likely to stay. Create a formal on-boarding process that focuses on welcoming the employee to the organization as a whole; explaining your organization’s mission, values, and goals, and how the employee fits into that picture; building a relationships among the employee and their supervisor and coworkers; and training and preparing them to do their job well.


Eliminate drug screening where possible – This is a controversial option and not a real solution for direct care professionals, but there are many other positions where it may help with recruiting issues. Many organizations noted that with marijuana becoming legal in many states, it doesn’t hold the same stigma it once did, particularly among younger generations. This creates a major staffing problem. One organization explained that this became such an issue that, while they still have drug testing for employees who provide consumer care, they eliminated drug testing among housekeeping, janitorial, grounds keeping, and dining services staff at their facility.


Create a sense of camaraderie among employees – You want your employees to have multiple ties into your organization at every level. To do that, create opportunities for socialization and build a sense of community. For example, create a Young Professionals Association and allow a small budget to support their activities outside of work, or offer days of service during work hours that allow employees to volunteer together in the community.


Build connections through a peer mentoring program – Peer-to-peer mentoring can help employees to build confidence in their role and feel a greater connection to the organization. Peers can assist with on-boarding, be a part of training, demonstrate quality work, be a resource for questions and concerns, and offer encouragement in tough situations. Prioritize the role of peer mentor with employees so they don’t feel overwhelmed and unable to meet their role as mentor and employee.


Give employees a concrete personal growth plan and scholarships for continuing education – Map out the possibilities for advancement and new skill building with every staff member during reviews and then check in periodically with their process. Offer scholarships for advanced education (that come with commitments to the organization) that allow employees to meet their personal goals. Investing in employees’ personal develop helps them to grow in their positions and see a long-term future within your organization.


Create culture of visible recognition and appreciation – An email or offering a personal word of thanks is important, but you should also show that you value employees in more tangible and high-profile ways. Many studies show that recognition is a huge driver in employee performance and satisfaction (see Growing a Strong Direct Care Workforce: A Recruitment and Retention Guide for Employers), so highlight employees in your newsletter, recognize their work publicly at staff meetings, feature staff profiles on your website or social media, or invite a different high-performing employee to attend your board meetings monthly for a special introduction and thank you.


Allow for the flexibility to shift small policies that can make a big difference – Employee expectations about workplace culture are changing and creating some freedom in office policies that can have a big impact on day-to-day employee satisfaction. For example, several organizations saw employee satisfaction increase when dress code restrictions were relaxed; one organization improved morale by redesigning the break room for comfort and providing free drinks and snacks; and one noted that allowing employees to bring dogs to the office created a surprising amount of goodwill among employees.


Offer debt reduction as an employee benefit – Debt is a real concern for many people, one that often outweighs the desire to save for retirement. For many organizations, offering debt reduction, particularly student loan repayment assistance, can be a major attraction to potential employees. Across all employment sectors this has gotten a lot of attention. Last fall, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a private letter ruling stating that companies could offer contributions to 401k retirement plans matching employee contributions to student loan debt (see INSIGHT: The Good and Bad News Regarding the Recent PLR on Student Loan Repayment Assistance Programs). And in February, a bill was introduced in the Senate to make employer contributions to student loan debt tax-free in the same way contributions to retirement accounts are tax-free (see Bill Introduced to Help Employers Offer Student Loan Repayment Benefit).


Offer child care on-site or a credit towards day care at another provider – Quality affordable day care is a primary concern for many working parents and offering subsidized day can be a huge motivator for employees. Building your own day care center can be a challenge, but several organizations noted that they think of the day care as part of the employee benefit package and offer anywhere from a 30% to 50% discount for employees. That discount is then charged back to the employee’s department, like their other benefits.

In this labor market, where we face tight margins and increasing shortages, many organizations will find that they are being pushed into new territory and forced to consider new benefits, new management strategies, and new staff programs that were never options before. The bottom line is that flexibility and innovation are the only real solutions.



MHW: NYS Braces For New Campaign to Support Investments in Human Services Sector

NYAPRS Note: The following piece reflects on New York human services advocates efforts to win an across the board investment in non profit services delivered by what has been termed the “indirect state workforce.” Congratulations are due to the diversity of advocates who helped win an increase for nonprofit mental hygiene direct care and clinical staff and to the Governor and state legislators for alpproving that.

But candidly, it’s nowhere near enough to step the crisis our agencies face in keeping up with ever rising costs and the ever present staff recruitment and retention crisis. Look for us all to start work soon to fashion the campaign for an across the board investment in the New York’s human services sector.

NYS Braces For New Campaign to Support Investments in Human Services Sector

Mental Health Weekly  May 15, 2019

Observing New York state’s nonprofit human services   employees   have   been   unaddressed for more than a decade, the state’s behavioral health provider community and mental health advocates are waging an all-out attack to convince the state legislature and the governor to invest in across-the-board increases for the field.


The state’s budget was signed in April, at which time Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature approved only a portion of the cost-of-

living adjustment (COLA) increase for the human services workforce.


“We in New York state endeavor to try to get COLA for the entire human sector in the past budget, which was signed April 1,” Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State, told MHW. The human services sector is inclusive of all nonprofits, including mental health, substance use, developmental disabilities, child welfare, foster care, domes- tic violence and food pantries, among others, Liebman said.


Technically, the COLA has been in statute for the last 10 years, but it was only fully funded the first year, explained Liebman, adding that every year since then it has been deferred. “This past budget was the first time the sector has rallied together in support of a COLA,” Liebman said. Liebman said he and other advocates are speaking with “one voice” about the need for a COLA based on the consumer price index of 2.9 percent.


COLA funding offers providers some flexibility, said Liebman. “It can be used for other purposes, such as helping pay the cost of rising health insurance or other like-minded expenses,” he said.


Some Success, More Needed

“We partially succeeded — we didn’t receive an across-the-board increase for the entire human services sector,” said Harvey Rosenthal, CEO for the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.


The increases already approved will begin to be implemented in January 2020, he said. Once fully implemented, the result will be 4 percent for direct care workers and 2 percent for clinical workers who represent the New York Office of Mental Health, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and developmental disability organizations.


“This has been a very tough budget environment,” said Rosenthal. “We’re grateful to get that increase, but we have to go the full distance.”


The executive director at the New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare concurs with Liebman and Rosenthal that more resources are urgently needed. “For too long, the behavioral health workforce and the human services sector [overall] have gone without a meaningful infusion of resources for recruiting, retaining and attracting a qualified staff,” Lauri Cole told MHW.


COLA is the preferred vehicle for aiding the workforce, and one that touches direct care staff, and sometimes lower-paid staff, as well as supervisors, she said. For eight of the last 10 years, Governor Cuomo has deferred the statutory cost-of-living adjustment for nonprofit human services employees, and in doing so the executive branch has withheld an estimated $707 million from worker salaries and benefits, infrastructure improvements and ever-increasing operating expenses, Cole said.


A 2.9 percent COLA is essential to help New York to address shocking increases in deaths due to opioid use and suicide, including a growing number of attempts among children under 10 years old, and steadily mounting rates of homelessness and incarceration, according to a COLA fact sheet. The human services providers are fundamental to New York state: the sector makes up 20 percent of New York’s workforce and delivers services to 2.5 million people annually.


The nonprofit human services workforce is, in effect, an indirect government workforce. Females make up more than 80 percent of the human services sector. The state and its local governments have turned to upward of 500 nonprofit organizations to provide these critical services, working in contracts for example with the following state agencies to serve the most vulnerable New Yorkers:

•       Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

•       Office of Children and Family Services.

•       Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

•       Office for the Aging.

•       Office of Mental Health.

•       Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

•       Department of Health.

 Workforce Survey

“The NYS Council and many other behavioral health associations recently distributed a survey to our combined members across New York state,” said Cole. The survey included 126 agencies, representing 14,499 workers who responded from virtually every county in New York state, she said.

According to the survey, the statewide breakdown of turnover rates and vacancy rates were 34 percent and 14 percent respectively. The behavioral health turnover rate and vacancy rates are real and impactful to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers seeking access to care in the mental health and addictions system of care, noted Cole.


Cole added, “We completely support initiatives to fund minimum wage and other direct care commitments, but nonprofits must also be able to keep up competitive salaries to ensure access to and continuity of care for New Yorkers seeking their assistance.”


The tangible impact of high turnover includes disruption in services, waitlists and staff burnout, the survey indicated.


“This year’s fight is for the human services sector as a whole,” Cole said. The fight will be for appropriate salaries, she noted, adding that human services agencies are re- ally the backbone of the health care industry. There are many adults and children across the state in need of some sort of services, she said. “We need to have an adequately trained workforce to serve them,” Cole said. She added, “We’re going to be louder and more compelling and aggressive in our efforts to secure re- sources agencies need to staff our programs adequately.”


Rosenthal added that plans are already underway to speak to advisors and officials regarding these important increases. “Our goal is to come back and get an across-the- board increase for the entire human services sector,” he said. A somewhat new approach in this effort is to get together much earlier this year to seek investments in this field for the FY 2020–21 budget, Rosenthal noted. •