NYS Budget Deal: Housing, Workforce, Criminal Justice Wins!

NYAPRS Analysis of 2017-18 State Budget Agreement

Despite a turbulent process characterized by frequent fits and stops, a 3-way state budget agreement that was announced by Governor Cuomo last night and that is expected to be approved by both houses of the legislature over the coming days has turned out to be one of the best we’ve seen in a very long time.

NYAPRS members have a lot to be proud of! On February 28th, upwards of 700 spirited self and system advocates came to Albany to push for several historic housing and criminal justice initiatives, for long overdue increases to our long underpaid yet dedicated and skilled community workforce, for more community reinvestment dollars from state hospital downsizing and for an innovative pilot featuring a voluntary yet persistent approach to serving people and families in crisis.

Here’s how did on those issues:

6,000 NEW SUPPORTIVE HOUSING UNITS

  • Among our top priorities were rate increases for OMH funded community housing programs. Our members circled the capital in their green ‘Housing is Essential to Mental Health Recovery’ hats and held a widely covered march and news conference. We made increasing workforce compensation and retention the center piece of this ask, citing the extraordinary pressure that unacceptably deficient levels of pay was putting on consumers, families and agency direct care and management.

In the end, we’ve been told several times that this advocacy helped set the table for the workforce pay hike we’ll outline below. Also, we can count the $10 million supported housing increase and 280 new community beds that were proposed by the Governor.

  • For the second year in a row, advocates for supportive housing relentlessly pressed in Albany and in New York City for the Governor and State Legislative leaders to finalize a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) to make good the Governor’s promise to invest $20 billion for a comprehensive, five-year plan for affordable and supportive housing to ensure New Yorkers who are homeless or at risk of homelessness have safe and secure housing. We’re extremely pleased that the final budget agreement includes $2.5 billion in funding to advance the creation of 100,000 new affordable and 6,000 supportive housing units, all without the need for an MOU!

COMMUNITY WORKFORCE PAY HIKE

On the heels of an extraordinary workforce wage hike campaign that was waged by advocates for agencies that serve New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, NYAPRS helped to launch a campaign to win the same benefits for the community behavioral health workforce. We worked closely with MHANYS to garner some prominent media coverage for our ask and joined with 10 other statewide and regional advocacy groups (http://www.nyaprs.org/e-news-bulletins/2017/015536.cfm) n a feverish 5-week campaign that ultimately proved successful!

As a result, the state will:

  • increase salaries for direct care, direct support professionals who work in OPWDD, OMH and OASAS funded programs by 3.25% this January 1, 2018 and by another 3.25% in April 1, 2018 for a total increase of 6.5% and
  • increase salaries for clinical staff working in those same community agencies by April 1, 2108.

Per a statement from the Governor, the goal of these increases is “to help alleviate the recruitment and retention challenges of direct care staff, direct support professionals and clinical staff employed in eligible programs and to continue and to expand efforts to support the professionalism of the direct care workforce.”

In an earlier statement by the Governor, “These increases will help state-funded non-profits that specialize in the care of vulnerable New Yorkers not only recruit and retain employees, but continue to provide the same level of excellent care that have made them the backbone of New York’s developmentally disabled and behavioral health system.”

MINIMUM WAGE RELATED INCREASE

In addition, we also can count a $3.5 million investment from the Governor to keep pace with raising the salaries of the lowest paid OMH funded workers.

COMMUNITY REINVESTMENT FUNDING

Since its inception in 1994, New York’s community reinvestment program has reallocated hundreds of millions in savings from state hospital downsizing to grow the community recovery sector, including rehabilitation and employment, peer and family support and crisis initiatives. This year, OMH will be reinvesting as much as $11 million in community service expansion.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE INITIATIVES

RAISE THE AGE
We came into this year’s session with New York State being only 1 of 2 states that treated children between the ages of 16-18 as adults, an abhorrent practice that has left such children 2 times more likely to be injured, 5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted and 8 times more likely to complete suicide than their peers in juvenile facilities.

This year, NYAPRS stepped up our efforts to join with an extraordinary coalition of advocates that was led by groups like Families Together and the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy that ultimately found success in Raising the Age of Criminal Liability in New York to age 18!

This issue proved to be among the top stumbling blocks to getting a budget deal done weeks ago. Under the new law, cases involving 16- and 17 year-old defendants would be adjudicated as follows:

— Civil violation charges, such as open container violations and possession of small amounts of marijuana, as well as misdemeanors under the Vehicle and Traffic Law, such as DWIs, would continue to be handled in the local court.

— All misdemeanor charges under the Penal Law would be handled in Family Court.

— All felony charges would begin in a newly established Youth Part of the criminal court, presided over by a Family Court judge, where offenders would have access to additional intervention services and programming.

— Non-violent felony charges would be transferred to Family Court, unless the district attorney makes a motion and demonstrates extraordinary circumstances that justify retaining the case in the Youth Part of the criminal court.

— Violent felony charges would remain in the Youth Part of the criminal court and be subject to a three-part test that weighs the seriousness of the offense to determine whether the case will be eligible for presumptive removal to Family Court.

— Juvenile cases not eligible for removal will be treated as adults for sentencing purposes, though the court will be directed to consider the defendant's age when imposing a sentence of incarceration.

In addition, a defendant of any age who is convicted of certain non-violent offenses could apply to the court for a sealing of their record after a 10-year waiting period following the completion of their sentence, thereby allowing them to shed a ‘scarlet letter’ that has prevented so many from the chance to reintegrate into their communities.

CRISIS INTERVENTION TEAMS AND DIVERSION SERVICES
For the 3rd year in a row, we can count yet another sizeable allocation to expand the Crisis Intervention Team model to even more localities than the 22 that have already instituted CITs. Thanks to the great leadership of legislative mental health committee chairs Senator Rob Ortt and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, the budget deal includes another $1.4 million to fund CIT and criminal justice diversion services, adding to previous investments of around $3 million.

INTENSIVE NEW PILOT TO HELP INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES IN CRISIS
We’re very pleased that Chairwoman Gunther has agreed to allocate $500,000 to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of a new model aimed at providing immediate, intensive and sustained assistance to individuals who have previously not accepted support and their families.

CAPITAL INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS

The budget allocates $500 million in capital for the Health Care Facility Transformation Program that can be used by eligible providers to address needs like “debt retirement and projects that facilitate health care transformation, including mergers, consolidation, acquisition or other corporate restructuring activities intended to create a financially sustainable system of care that promotes a patient-centered model of health care delivery or preserves or expands essential health care services.”

$200 million of these funds can be used for a new round with such investments, with at least $75 million for a broader group of community based programs than had previously been proposed by the Governor. Selection of eligible program types will include input from a stakeholder and community input process. This could include HCBS providers, something that was especially advanced by MHANYS.

HEALTH HOMES

While the Senate originally proposed to make a $105 million cut to the health home program, apparently $40 million will be re-allocated for ‘re-programming’ or state savings. MHANYS and NYAPRS made a strong push over the last few weeks to limit the damage here.

STATE IMPACT OF POSSIBLE FEDERAL MEDICAID CUTS

It was agreed that if the federal government cuts more than $850 million from New York’s Medicaid program, the Governor’s Budget Director will submit a detailed proposal to cut our Medicaid program by an identified amount. The legislature will have 90 days to submit its own plan or to simply allow the Governor’s plan to go forward.

SUMMARY

This budget session is ending a lot better than could have been predicted even a month or so ago. One has to give Governor Cuomo and his team and state legislative leaders, the mental health committee chairs and the legislature as a whole a lot of credit for a number of critically important advances.

Yet, most of these would not have been at all possible had not 11 behavioral health advocacy groups joined to work so well to offer a unified and clear message to state leaders and to the public.

I’d like to personally commend the huge turnout by NYAPRS members this year: from the 700+ turnout at our Legislative Day to the countless meetings you held and calls you made, you played a major role in helping to gain these victories.

There’s plenty of work to do in the months ahead. We’ll continue to be very busy working with state agencies to advance HARP, Health Home, HCBS, DSRIP and Value Based Payment initiatives that best advance the recovery and rights of New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities and the capacity of our sector to play critical roles all along the way.

And it won’t be too long, believe it or not, that we’ll have to focus on joining with our colleagues to fashion a budget agenda for the coming year that will go a lot farther to cultivate stability and growth in our services and appropriate value to our workforce.

Thanks to everyone one of you who helped make this a special year for our community and our sector.