OMH Head Touts Transition To Community-Based Outpatient Services

OMH Head Touts Transition To Community-Based Outpatient Services

By Nick Niedzwiadek POLITICO New York Pro 04/18/2018

The Office of Mental Health commissioner extolled the state's years long move away from institutional settings to community-based services at a state Senate committee meeting Wednesday after the department backed away from an unpopular decision to close an institutional facility for juveniles.

"The value of all this talk of changing the system is really providing full lives for individuals," Commissioner Ann Sullivan told members of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee. "Reinvestment gives us the money to get those community-based services — to get them beds, to get them housing, to get them wraparound services."

The state earlier this month reversed its long-running effort to close and relocate the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center following fierce opposition from local lawmakers and the community. The state's plan would have generated roughly $3.2 million in annual savings, which it would have put toward additional outpatient services in the area.

Sullivan did not mention the hospital by name during her remarks, but they acted as an implicit defense of the state's philosophy toward such psychiatric centers. Some critics worry that reducing the number of state-run inpatient beds has an adverse effect on the most severely ill and puts strain on the justice system to make up the difference.

Sullivan, as part of a presentation that highlighted parts of the 2018-2019 budget pertaining to mental health, said that the move toward community-based services should not be seen as a devaluation of state-operated psychiatric hospitals.

"There's always going to be a need for beds," she said. "There's always individuals who need that specialized care."

Sullivan said the shift allows the state's limited resources to be spent on services benefiting a broader array of patients, without sacrificing the care for those with severe mental illness who require hospitalization.

State Sen. Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda), who chairs the committee, thanked Sullivan and the governor's office for backing off their initial plan, and for committing to that outpatient expansion while still keeping the West Seneca facility open.

"Everybody wins, which is very rare here in Albany, as everybody knows," he said.