NYAPRS Releases Summary of 2017 NYS Budget, Legislative Agenda; Get on the Bus on the 28th!

NYAPRS Note: NYAPRS’ Legislative Day is only 2 weeks away! As of today, we are expecting upwards of 700 recovery and rights advocates from across New York to join us in Albany to press for the policy priorities that have been summarized below.
There’s still time to grab a seat on one of the 16 buses that are leaving from Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Westport, Newburgh, White Plains, Elmira, Binghamton, New York City and Long Island. For more details, please contact us at juliel@nyaprs.org.

See you at 10:00am on the 28th to review our issues, hear from featured speakers, participate in a Capital march and news conference and meet with your legislators and/or staff!

nyaprs logoNYAPRS 2017 Budget and Legislative Priorities

Housing

Address the Crisis in our Housing Programs due to Years of Funding Deficits! Background: Stable, decent housing with individualized supports is critical to the recovery and well-being of New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities and/or diagnoses. Yet, OMH’s existing housing services are in great jeopardy. Increases in funding have not kept pace with inflation over the past 25 years- so much so that mental health housing programs in New York have endured upwards of $120 million in cuts due to inflation – upwards of 40% in some programs since 1990.

Relationships with quality staff are the foundation for housing programs’ capability to advance health and recovery of those who they support. Yet, we are unable to attract and retain our talented workforce since we cannot provide them with a living wage, due to severe underfunding of housing programs. Further, increased staffing ratios and expertise are greatly needed to help support individuals who require and deserve additional support.
Ask: While the Executive Budget provides $10 million for housing rate increases, it simply is not enough to stop the bleeding! NYAPRS joins a number of advocacy groups in seeking $28 million more this year to raise housing rates, recognizing that critically needed housing programs require $38 million per year for the next three years to remain sustainable.

Housing for the Homeless

Our hopes were raised high last year when the Governor made an unprecedented commitment to expand supportive housing for vulnerable groups, commitments unmatched by a long line of previous Governors. Previous commitments were guaranteed via an agreement between New York State and New York City, the NY/NY initiatives that also ensured that a substantive percentage of the beds were afforded to individuals with the most serious behavioral health conditions. We come today to urge the signing of another such agreement.
Ask: We urge the Governor and Legislature to come together and sign a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) that would allow $1.9 billion dollars to be released for housing, with $1 billion to go to creating 6,000 supportive housing apartments over the next five years.

Criminal Justice Reforms

Crisis Intervention Teams
The pathway to a life in the criminal justice system begins with encounters with the police. Too often, police officers have been called on to intervene in circumstances and with people in mental distress for which they have not been adequately prepared. That’s why we have been backing the use of Crisis Intervention Teams across New York. CIT is a highly acclaimed model that matches police training with improved local systems collaboration that has been replicated in 2,700 cities across the United States, including Philadelphia, Houston, San Diego, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Over the past 3 years, the legislature has committed almost $3.4 million to bring the CIT and related models to a number of jurisdictions across the state. But many more police departments and local communities seek and deserve CIT to come to their jurisdictions!
Ask: We seek a $500,000 allocation to bring the Crisis Intervention Team model to 8 more communities!

‘HALT’ the Torture in our Prisons: Pass HALT Bill Assembly 3080; Senate 3824
Imprisoned people in solitary confinement (known also as disciplinary confinement, Special Housing Units (SHU), and Keeplock) spend twenty-three to twenty-four hours a day in barren concrete cells.

Many of these individuals have mental health needs: a recent federal study found that “29% of prison inmates and 22% of jail inmates with current symptoms of serious psychological distress had spent time in restrictive housing in the past 12 months.”

Further, “inmates ...assigned to solitary confinement were 3.2 times as likely to commit an act of self-harm per 1000 days at some time during their incarceration as those never assigned to solitary.”

This year, NYAPRS members join with over 60 other groups within Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement to urge passage of legislation that will ‘HALT’ the torture of over 1,000 prisoners with serious mental illness in disciplinary confinement.

This legislation will prohibits segregation of young and elderly people, people with physical or mental disabilities, pregnant women, new mothers and LGBTQI individuals; enhances conditions in segregated confinement for others, create new Residential Rehabilitation Units as a more humane and effective alternative and requires training for correctional and hearing officers, public reporting on the use of segregation and oversight of the bill’s implementation.
Ask: Pass the HALT bill: Assembly 3080; Senate 3824

Raise the Age
Children must not be treated like adults by our criminal justice systems and we urge the legislature to take action this year and to end the shameful policy of being one of only 2 states to pursue this shameful policy.
Ask: NYAPRS urges the Legislature to approve the Executive proposal to ‘Raise the Age’ of youthful offender status to 18.

Investments in Community Recovery Agencies and our Workforce

The Executive Budget proposal offers our Office of Mental Health funded workforce a mere $3 million to help move our workforce to minimum wage levels while deferring yet again our annual Cost of Living Adjustment, denying us $9 million for the coming year.
Ask: NYAPRS joins our colleague advocacy groups in seeking $50.5 million in OMH funding per year for the next five years to support the impact of the incremental increases to the minimum wage that were approved during the last legislative session. In doing so, we can address the impact of the changes to the NYS-DOL rules for Exempt Employees and Overtime.

Alternatives to Outpatient Commitment

NYAPRS considers the use of the courts and police to mandate outpatient care to be evidence of system failures and strongly urges the state to develop alternative voluntary approaches to best engage people and families in crisis.
Ask: Accordingly, we urge the legislature to reject expansion and permanence for the Kendra’s Law program.