NYAPRS NOTE: A statement that was released by New York State Behavioral Health Advocates was just posted by the Albany Times Union. See Below:
Behavioral Health Advocates: We Need Funding Too
ByRick Karlin, Albany Times UnionMarch 22, 2017
There’s been a big push this year to increase the pay of direct care workers who care for the disabled.
With a rising minimum wage, the concern is that people who perform these often-thankless and difficult tasks would be lured to easier jobs that pay just as much.
Now, those representing the behavioral health sector are weighing in as well. These are people who work in residences or who provide out-patient help for people with mental illness. Years ago, many mentally ill New Yorkers were confined to hospitals but over the years there’s been a concerted push toward de-institutionalizing people with mental health needs. That idea has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as well. But that places a greater strain on smaller organizations that don’t have the financial wherewithal that state-run hospitals enjoy.
Here are some more details from a coalition of groups in this field:
Representatives of 11 leading state behavioral health advocacy groups have joined together to urge state legislators and the Cuomo Administration to address the crisis in community service systems that they say are jeopardizing the health of adults and children with disabilities, addictions and emotional disturbances.
The groups are pressing policy makers to fund a meaningful workforce increase and a long deferred cost of living adjustment that are critical to addressing up to 75% staff turnover rates and 40% job vacancy rates, leaving agencies on the brink of closing.
“For years we’ve been hemorrhaging staff due to increasing operational costs and competition from other areas of the economy that can offer our staff better wages and benefits,” said Lauri Cole, Executive Director of the NYS Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare
“Despite their extraordinary dedication and tireless efforts, our workforce is dramatically underpaid.” said Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State. “We urge the Legislature and the Governor to provide the necessary funding to retain and recruit the quality staff that will help provide support to New Yorkers in greatest need and to allow us to keep up with steadily rising costs.”
The advocates believe that the Senate, the Assembly and the Governor are exploring ways to extend funding to services funded by the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services as they have agreed to do for agencies associated with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
“We are grateful that in each of the budget bills there has been some expression of support for our workers and the programs to which they dedicate their lives,” Christy Parque, CEO of The Coalition for Behavioral Health. “However, what we are asking for is a comprehensive commitment from the Governor and Legislature to the front line human services workforce and our hard-pressed community agencies.”
The funding crisis has had a direct effect on the lives of people with behavioral health conditions and their families
“Trust in the staff who worked in my housing program was essential to starting my own personal process of healing when I was a child,” said Tiffany Monti, of the New York Association of Psychiatric Services board. “I really needed a sense of consistency and reliability among the staff to help me to develop a sense of safety and stability.”
“High staff turnover results in caregivers who are not as familiar with our loved ones and who will be less apt to recognize the earliest signs needed for immediate intervention, leading to their hospitalization or other negative outcomes, said Wendy Burch, Executive Director, NAMI-NYS.
“Families of children with behavioral health issues need to feel confident that there is a quality workforce in each of our service systems,” said Paige Pierce, CEO, Families Together in NYS
The community care crisis is being felt in every locality across the state and across the spectrum of New Yorkers with the greatest needs.
“The shrinking direct care workforce is an issue in every county, and across all three disability agencies, mental health, substance use disorder and developmental disabilities,” said Kelly Hansen of the NYS Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors.
“Dedicated staff in substance use disorders prevention, treatment, and recovery programs are tirelessly working to address an epidemic of heroin and prescription opioid overdose and addiction. While demand for these services is rising, programs are losing staff because of low wages and inadequate benefits,” said John Coppola, Executive Director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers.
Housing agencies that must provide around the clock care are especially vulnerable.
“Community based housing providers that operate OMH residential programs need substantive state increases to properly and fairly implement minimum wage hikes – and they need it now,” said Toni Lasicki, CEO of the Association for Community Living.
“The Supportive Housing Network of New York calls on New York State to provide substantial relief to chronically underfunded Office of Mental Health programs that provide safe and supportive homes for 32,000 of our fellow citizens,” said Laura Mascuch, Executive Director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York.
“This is not politics for us,” concluded Andrea Smyth, Executive Director, NYS Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health. “This is about ensuring that New York keeps its promise to support the most vulnerable children and adults who will not have access to care because we cannot retain a sufficient workforce and help providers to make up for a decade of deferred cost of living adjustments.”
“We hope and expect state leaders will answer our call this year“, said NYAPRS’ Harvey Rosenthal.