NYAPRS Note: The Bring It Home! Campaign to gain rate hikes for housing provider who are on the verge on turning back beds due to steadily rising costs without appropriate increase took another step forward at yesterday’s NYS Assembly hearing. It’s clear that our message is being heard, thanks to the terrific leadership of the Association for Community Living and the other members of our coalition.
Supportive Housing Advocates Make Case For More Funding
By Nick Niedzwiadek Politico December 11, 2107
ALBANY — There continues to be unmet need in New York State for supportive housing for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities, advocates testified Monday at an Assembly committee hearing.
Supportive housing services provide people the opportunity to live in the community, rather than in an institutional setting, and receive medical or other social services there. It allows them to be more integrated into society than they otherwise would be, and in some cases it is a more cost-effective form of housing than a state-run facility or jail.
Toni Lasicki, executive director for the Association for Community Living, spoke about the lack of access in urgent terms.
"Make no mistake about it, New York is facing a dilemma: We can either be a national model for how states can protect a population that so desperately needs support, or watch the system collapse and become an example of what can go wrong," she said. "The funding issues are so acute that the existence of the programs [is] in jeopardy."
Increasing funding to build and operate more supportive housing units, and units that can meet a wide spectrum of specialized needs, was the chief concern. But a close second was whether the two state agencies principally charged with overseeing these programs — the Office of Mental Health and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities — maintained sufficiently accurate data to guide decisions.
"There continues to be considerable concern about accuracy of the data, [and] this lack of confidence in the data undermines confidence in the broader effort to resolve the residential issue," said Mark van Voorst, executive director of
The Arc New York, an organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"I'm not sure that if OPWDD was given all the operating funding it could conceivably need, these funds would actually solve the problem," van Voorst testified.
Kerry Delaney, OPWDD's acting commissioner, said wait lists aren't the best way of tracking demand for supportive housing.
"It's not necessarily a reflection of current need," she said, noting the rolls have shrunk in recent years nonetheless.
Several groups at the hearing have banded together and formed a coalition called Bring It Home, which is pushing for increased state funding to help staff and operate these community-based housing facilities.
"We are part of this campaign because we know what is happening to the existing stock of mental health housing in New York," Glenn Liebman of the Mental Health Association of New York State said at the hearing. "Structures are falling apart, resources are strained and staff is dramatically under-compensated for the work that they are doing."
A similar effort last year successfully lobbied for increased state support to help pay direct care employees, who often work in supportive housing programs.
But the state is facing a $4.4. billion shortfall that must be closed in next year's budget, and the sweeping tax bill working through Congress could, if it passes, also impact next year's spending plan. Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh), chair of the Mental Health Committee, said she hoped that legislative leaders would be able to find the money to help fund supportive housing.
"Housing is critical, and supporting these folks is important, and I think that we neglected [them] for a long time and we have a lot of catch-up to do," she said at the hearing. "I'm praying that things will turn around."
Advocates: NY Must Invest More In Housing For Mentally Ill
The Associated Press December 11. 2017
Advocates for New Yorkers with mental illness say the state is falling behind on investments in community housing for this vulnerable group.
Legislators have scheduled a hearing Monday to examine existing housing programs for the mentally ill, with a focus on the best ways to improve the system.
Toni Lasicki, director of the Association for Community Living, says the housing system for the mentally ill is at a financial breaking point and that more must be done to help this vulnerable group of New Yorkers. Lasicki's organization represents programs and agencies that provide services and housing for 30,000 people with significant mental health challenges.
Lasicki says increasing funding isn't just the right thing to do, but that it will reduce other costs related to homelessness, incarceration and emergency room visits.
Assembly Holds Hearing On Housing For The Disabled
By Morgan McKay NEWS10 ABC December 11, 2107
ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – New York has come a long way in how it cares for its disabled and mentally ill residents and continues to set new national standards in how these people are cared for.
However, these programs are at risk of being cut if something is not done soon to increase funding.
“We can no longer wait. At some point they have to pay attention to us,” Toni Lasicki, Director for Association for Community Living, said.
Lasicki says direct care workers still barely make minimum wage, even as some employees at fast food restaurants are earning $15 per hour. The legislature has pledged to raise direct care worker’s wages over the next six years, but Lasicki told the Assembly committee six years is too long.
“These jobs require staff to understand mental illness, supervise medications, do crisis counseling; these are anything but minimum wage jobs.”
It’s not just direct care workers taking a hit. Housing programs for those with disabilities and mental illnesses are falling short of making ends meet across the state.
“We’re talking about serious underfunding for a lot of years.”
Many organizations that provide care might have to close their doors this next year or double up residents to a room, which can be problematic for those struggling with mental illnesses.
“I can’t tell you how many more phone calls I’ve gotten over the past three years from parents who have said my kid used to live here and it was a home and they were happy. Since you brought this new individual in my son or daughter is getting hit, they’re getting bit, they’re getting slapped,” Mark Van Voorst, Executive Director of the ARC New York, said.
With the state facing a major budget deficit, a bigger increase in funding for these programs could be difficult.
“It may be one of the toughest budgets we have ever had to do here at the State Assembly since I’ve been here but we have to put people first. We can not leave people behind,” Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (D-Montgomery County) said.