NYAPRS 2nd Look at NYS Budget: Solitary Confinement Reform, Vet to Vet, Prescriber Prevails

NYAPRS Note: Following up on our initial review of what’s in the Governor’s budget of note tour community (see below), here’s a second deeper look that involves  3 areas of interest to NYAPRS and our colleagues. The Governor proposes significant solitary confinement reforms that are most welcome but not on the scale of the HALT bill (see below). He also expands access to rehabilitation and ending cash bail, as well as extending vet to vet peer support from 16 to 62 counties. However, we’ll be once again opposing the proposal to allow health plans and not patients and prescribers to choose the appropriate medications.

Get ready to get on the bus to Albany on February 26th for NYAPRS Annual Legislative Day when upwards of 600 self and system advocates gather to push forward our priorities for the coming year. See below for more details.

Criminal Justice Reforms

Solitary confinement

Governor Cuomo is proposing to:

  • limiting the length of time spent in separation,

  • building dedicated housing units for rehabilitation and integration following a disciplinary sanction

  • expanding therapeutic programming to reinforce positive and social behavior.

  • restricting the length of separate confinement to less than 30 days,

  • creating specialized housing units with out-of-cell programming, and

  • requiring intensive training for staff and discipline hearing officers on implicit bias, interpersonal communication, and de-escalation.

  • gradually decrease the amount of consecutive days an incarcerated individual can spend in traditional SHU confinement.

Budgetary Impact:  Department of Corrections and Community Supervision will see an increase of $84.2 million, $70 million for capital expenses and $14.2 million for 153 new staff to implement increases in program services and supervision of inmates staff

Contrast to HALT Bill

  • There are no restrictions of criteria of who can be placed in solitary

  • RRUs guarantee only 5 hours out of cell per day only four days a week (rather than 7 hours, 7 days a week)

  • The time limit on segregation is 90 days as of April 2021, 60 days by Oct 2021, and then ultimately 30 days by April 2022 (rather than 15 days)

  • The only two special populations that would be barred from SHU are adolescents and pregnant women/new mothers (ie does not include people with mental health needs, elderly people, young people 18-21, people with physical disabilities)

OMH Forensic Services

OMH will hire an additional 40 personnel to “support the growing forensic needs within OMH facilities”

Ending Cash Bail

Currently, New Yorkers who do not present a risk to public safety, but cannot afford bail, are detained while those who may present a risk to public safety can post bail and gain release. Legislation will be submitted with the Budget that will end cash bail so that no one is detained because they cannot afford the cost of bail.

Remove Barriers to Re-entry

Individuals with criminal convictions face significant economic and social barriers to their successful reintegration into society. Legislation advanced by the Budget removes outdated suspensions and bans on driver’s licenses and occupational licenses; prevents the sharing of mugshots that do not have a specific law enforcement need; enhances criminal history reports; expands opportunities for compassionate release, merit release and limited credit time allowances; and reduces financial burdens on those recently released from prison.

Consider Domestic Violence in Sentencing.

There is a strong connection between domestic violence and incarcerated women, with nine out of 10 female inmates having experienced severe physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the Correctional Association of New York. To help address the ongoing harm caused to these survivors by the pain inflicted upon them, the Executive Budget advances the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA), which would give judges discretion to lower sentences for survivors of domestic violence whose abuse is determined to be a significant contributing factor to their crime.

Vet Suicide Prevention, Expanded Peer to Peer Support

To combat veteran suicide, New York State will launch a wide-ranging, coordinated initiative involving both private and public sector service providers. The Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Project will be expanded from 16 counties to all 62. State personnel will receive training in how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and how to identify veterans, especially homeless veterans, and connect them with veteran-specific services. The State will also launch a telehealth services pilot program to reach Native American veterans.

Repeals Prescriber Prevails

Amend public health and social services law to reduce inappropriate prescribing by eliminating the prescriber’s right of final determination in both FFS and managed care when the justification for use is not clinically supported.

NYAPRS Note: Here are some initial findings in the just released Executive Budget proposal for 2019-20, compiled in tandem with the Mental Health Association in NYS. While there are a few positives we’ve found so far, we have our work cut out for us as regards the Cost of Living Adjustment (not in budget) and Housing Rate Hike (while $10 million is included, we need a lot more!). All hands on deck till session’s end for both of these!

We are very pleased to see another year of Community Reinvestment funds and increased bridger and related services for adult home residents with psychiatric disabilities, along with enhanced monitoring of health plan compliance with insurance parity requirements.

Criminal Justice: We will be working to secure funds for additional Crisis Intervention Team dollars. We have been given encouragement that the HALT bill that will ban the use of solitary confinement with people with mental, physical and intellectual disabilities, youth, seniors and pregnant mothers will pass both houses this year.

See below for program details of our February 26th Annual Albany Legislative Day. Reserve your seat and make your legislative appointments now! Buses will be leaving from Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Westport, Newburgh, New City, Putnam/Westchester, Binghamton, Long Island and New York City. Stay tuned for more details!

 NYS 2019-20 NYS Budget First Look: No COLA, $10 Million Housing Rate Hike,

$5.5 Reinvestment Allocation; Funding to Enhance Behavioral Health Parity Compliance

Here are some details of prominent mental health funding issues in the newly released 2019-2020 Executive Budget, working in tandem with the Mental Health Association in NYS.

No 2.9% Human Services Cost of Living Adjustment

  • NYAPRS has been working very closely with our colleagues from the mental health and substance use nonprofit sectors to secure a long promised cost of living adjustment (COLA) that we have only seen once in 9 years. The total cost of a human services COLA would be $140 million, $120 million of which would be spread out across OMH, OASAS and OPWDD funded nonprofits.

The Executive Budget did not include a COLA and so, we will work from today to session’s end to get the Governor, Assembly and Senate to include it in the final agreement, starting with yesterday’s Albany news conference.

See our news release at https://www.nyaprs.org/e-news-bulletins/2019/1/14/behavioral-health-advocates-unite-to-press-for-a-cola-today-in-albany  and video excerpts of the news conference that featured Community Access’ Phyllis Fisher at https://www.facebook.com/NYAPRSAlbany/videos/1985937304807667/

Great thanks to MHANYS’ Glenn Liebman for his leadership, NAMI-NYS for the video and our entire coalition for our collaboration. Stay tuned for a regular series of coalition actions over the next few months.

$10 Million Housing Rate Hike

  • The Executive budget provides another $10 million housing hike, as it has for each of the last 5 years. As an active member of the Bring It Home Campaign, NYAPRS will work throughout this session to attempt to significantly increase this number, given the dire conditions faced by our housing providers!

$5.5/11 Million Community Reinvestment Allocation

  • Once more, OMH’s budget includes more funding for community services expansion derived from the closure of additional state hospital beds. The $5.5 million equates to $11 million when annualized. See https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/transformation/ for terrific examples of how the state and local stakeholders have deployed these funds to boost services for people with the most extensive needs.

$10 million for Adult Home Transitional Supports

  • It appears that the budget appropriates an additional $5 million for peer bridger and other transitional supports for adult home residents with psychiatric disabilities which, when added to a carryover of last year’s $5 million comes to a total of $10 million.

$100 million to Replace Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center

  • “The Budget provides an additional appropriation of $100 million to support the replacement of the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center in Orange County, which includes buildings over 100 years old that are not designed for current standards of care.

$60 million in Capital Funds for Community Based Nonprofit Housing Providers

  • The Budget also includes $60 million to maintain and preserve existing community-based residential facilities that allow people with mental illness to live in the most integrated setting possible.

Behavioral Health Parity

  • The budget includes several million dollars to enhance staff at the Department of Financial Services and the Department of Health to help assure health plans have adequate provider networks and are in compliance with parity requirements. dedicated to network adequacy and reviewing existing health plans to help ensure compliance with parity. 

NYAPRS Note: Get ready to get on the bus for this year’s 22nd NYAPRS Annual Albany Legislative Day! Below please find this year’s priorities and schedule. We’ll be sending out a list of regional bus contacts tomorrow for groups to contact and reserve their seats!

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