TU: OMH Plan Said To Avoid Layoffs

NYAPRS Note: At noon today, the NYS Office of Mental Health will release details of the state’s proposal to reconfigure state operated services and workers in the coming years, while creating a lesser number of state of the art regional Centers of Excellence. Stay tuned for more details and statements from various mental health advocacy groups.  


OMH Plan Said To Avoid Layoffs

by Rick Karlin  Albany Times Union July 10, 2013


Unions such as CSEA and PEF can likely breathe a sigh of relief while advocates for mental health services are said to be happy with what they hear so far about the Office of Mental Health’s Regional Centers of Excellence Plan set to be unveiled this week, possibly later today.


The plan, which has been in the works for months aims to modernize what officials say is a 19th Century model of psychiatric hospitals - New York has the largest such system in the nation by far. With many of these old hospitals underutilized or badly suited to 21st Century treatments, the idea is have local community based centers serve those with mental illnesses. OMH envisions regional networks of both residential and day centers, many of which would be run by local non-profit agencies.


In a sense, it’s the latest chapter of the decades-old national trend toward deinstitutionalization — that is removing people from large psychiatric hospitals and working to get them back into the larger community.


Using local non profits can be more than a good treatment option, though, since it’s far less expensive. Non profits tend to use non-union employees vs state-run centers which essentially are staffed by state workers.


That’s created some worry among unions but the word is that, despite the downsizing ahead, planners aren’t looking to layoffs as these large institutions continue to be phased out.


That strategy makes sense, noted Harvey Rosenthal of the state association of Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. By taking layoffs out of the picture, he said, OMH is avoiding a potentially bruising battle with unions and the Legislature.


What’s likely to be announced is a framework for how the state’s hospitals in coming years will be downsized and how employees there will be redeployed. I’m hearing there will now be a three-year planning and phase-in period, which was hinted at in this May update on OMH’s website.


More important, Rosenthal and others say, the concept continues to get people, if at all possible, out of what they view the dinosaur-like state hospitals.