NYAPRS Note: NYS Senator Tom Libous has introduced legislation that would delay state plans to downsize, close and/or consolidate OMH and OPWDD facilities. If approved, this measure would push back implementation from later this year to the spring of 2015.
Sponsors: Introduced by Sens. Libous, Ritchie, Farley, Marcellino, O'Mara
Enacts the "freeze unsafe closures now act" to delay the closure and consolidation of state facilities operated by the office of mental health and the office for people with developmental disabilities until April 1, 2015.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend chapter 56 of the laws of 2012, amending the mental hygiene law and other laws relating to the office for people with developmental disabilities and the office of mental health, in relation to delaying the closure and consolidation of facilities operated by such offices
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: This bill will postpone the closures and consolidation of state facilities operated by the Office of Mental Health and the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities until April, 1, 2015.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
Section 1 enacts the "The Freeze Unsafe Closures Now Act".
Section 2 includes legislative findings on the Executive's proposed closures and consolidation of facilities operated by the Office of Mental Health and the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.
Section 3 amends sections 20 and 21 of part 1 of Chapter 56 of the Laws of 2012 to ensure that no state operated mental hygiene shall be closed or consolidated before April 1, 2015.
Section 4 is the effective date.
The Commissioners of the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) recently announced a plan to close numerous facilities operated by them.
The Chairs of the Senate and Assembly Committees have held multiple hearings around the State on the effects that these closures will have on our communities.
They've heard that the plan will overburden hospital emergency rooms, inundate local correctional facilities with many new inmates and increase local government expenditures for mental health services.
The closures at OMH would result in the creation of a "Thruway Mental Health System" - a system based on facilities around the Thruway by closing facilities in the Southern Tier and the North Country and basing them in Syracuse and Utica. Family members of inpatients at these facilities, including our most vulnerable consumers - children, would be forced to drive to Syracuse or Utica to see their loved ones under care. Imagine having your child being treated for an illness and being forced to drive 2 hours to visit them.
This plan will result in the loss of much needed inpatient beds in communities throughout New York without adequate community based alternatives for consumers. Emergency rooms for people with mental illness in the Southern Tier are already overcrowded and the influx of new patients who seek needed services from the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program operated by United Health Services will mean consumers aren't receiving much needed services.
The OPWDD plan will cut the safety net for people with developmental disabilities. Families will struggle to care for children or siblings that currently receive care in the state system. Some of these consumers have violent tendencies. These consumers may end up in the correctional system rather than receiving the care they need.
The Agencies' proposals will have unforeseen impacts by forcing state employees to move to new communities. Some communities will lose their only access to specialized professionals like psychiatrists.
The Commissioners have based this plan on the Olmstead Decision of the United States Supreme Court But the Olmstead Decision says that individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in the community if "the State's treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the State and the needs of others with mental disabilities." The plan introduced by OMH and OPWDD fails these tests.
Therefore the Senate has introduced legislation to put a moratorium on the closures until April 1, 2015. This will give the Agencies time to make a more detailed plan and work with the local communities to make sure that the appropriate safety nets are in place.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New bill.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: None to the State for this fiscal year, but this bill would stop significant costs to local governments when they are required to absorb new mental hygiene consumers who have been released from State care in their local mental hygiene system and jails.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Immediately.
Libous: Cuomo Open To “Alternatives” On Mental-Health Facility Closures
by Jon Campbell Gannett News Service November 19, 2013
A top Republican in the state Senate said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration will consider alternatives to closing four developmental centers and nine psychiatric hospitals, with a meeting with state lawmakers tentatively scheduled for next week on the issue.
Senate Deputy GOP Leader Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, held a news conference Monday to speak out about the closures—which include the Greater Binghamton Health Center and the Broome Developmental Center in his district—and call for a “freeze” on implementing the plan until 2015.
Libous said he’s been in touch with the Cuomo administration, which told him they are open to a “counter proposal.” Last week, top Cuomo aide Larry Schwartz called Libous to set up a meeting with affected lawmakers and stakeholders. (Cuomo’s office confirmed the expected meeting.)
“I’m hoping that there’s an alternative to what they’ve proposed,” Libous said in a phone interview. “I’m hoping—speaking for the Southern Tier region—that we have some presence. Everything is designed to cut us out. It wipes out Elmira and Binghamton, and that’s not right.”
The closure plans hit the Southern Tier particularly hard, impacting about 1,000 jobs in the region, according to Libous. Of the nine planned psychiatric hospital closures, one is in Binghamton and another in Elmira. A separate plan to close facilities for the developmentally disabled hits Binghamton by March 2016.
At the news conference in Binghamton, Libous shared the podium with top officials from local hospitals, jails and county mental-health offices to speak out against the closure plan. He said he would soon introduce a bill to implement the two-year “freeze,” but said talk of the closures can’t wait until the budget process opens in January.
“It’s a crisis,” Libous said. “It’s something that needs to be really thought out and looked at, and that’s why I’m asking for a freeze until April 1, 2015.”