Fax from Albany
May 13, 2005
Board Members, Affiliate Executive Directors, Interested Parties
Glenn D. Liebman, CEO
Michael Seereiter, Director of Public Policy
(518) 434-0439 ext. 20
SUICIDE PREVENTION CENTER'S
7th Annual HOPE Candlelight Vigil
May 19, 2005, 6:00-9:00 P.M.
you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping
for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran
May 19th, Samaritans Suicide Prevention Center will hold its 7th annual
candlelight vigil on the steps of the NYS Capitol in Albany.
event not only memorializes the lives that have been tragically lost to
suicide (through the faces on the NYS 1998 - 2005 LifeKeeper Memory
Quilts), but will also work to save future lives through sharing,
courage, and the commitment to the prevention of suicide. In addition,
the Vigil serves to recognize those individuals dedicated to the prevention
of suicide through the Annual LifeKeeper Memory Award. This year’s
LifeKeeper Awards will be presented to NYS Office of Mental Health
Commissioner Sharon Carpinello and Associate Director of Clinical Operations
for the Albany County Department of Mental Health, Bill Dickson.
more information, go to http://www.timesunion.com/communities/samaritans/,
or call (518) 689-0080.
TOGETHER IN NEW YORK STATE SEEKS YOUTH COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP:
- To advise the Office of Mental Health and other state departments
about statewide issues being faced by youth today
- To work with and to advise Families Together and its chapters
- To educate communities about children's mental health
- To work with Families Together’s chapters to develop regional
forums to address youth concerns
- To identify members to serve on community and state advisory councils,
taskforces, boards, subcommittees, etc.
- To expand and develop youth involvement in New York State
Diversity – a diverse membership population is needed to have an
efficient and affective youth council. Members should come from all areas
of the state and come from both rural and urban communities. Members should
come from all walks of life and have differing backgrounds and experiences.
We also strive to ensure that our members have diverse ethnicities and
Full System of Care – While the council’s main focus will
be mental health, it is understood that many youth are involved in multiple
systems. For example, a youth may have been diagnosed with a mental illness
and have chemical dependency difficulties. Another example would be a
youth who has been diagnosed with a mental illness and has been involved
in the juvenile justice system. Members must have been diagnosed with
a mental illness or behavioral disorder to participate yet we encourage
youth who are provided services in other systems to get involved.
- Must be of at least 14 years of age and no older than 23 to participate
as a full member of the council. Youth younger and older may be asked
to participate in specialized subcommittees.
- Must have been diagnosed with a mental illness or behavioral disorder.
- If under the age of 18, must have parent’s approval.
- Must be able to work on the council as a member of a group.
more information, contact Stephanie Orlando, Families Together’s
Statewide Youth Coordinator at (518) 432-0333 ext. 21.
ANNUAL WALK FOR MENTAL HEALTH:
is Mental Health Awareness Month
Week of May 14 – May 20, 2005
you are interested in participating, please contact Ann or Alexandra -
e-mail the Walk Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call Ann at (845) 566-0810 or Ali at (845) 703-1042 and they will connect
you with the agency coordinating the walk in your region.
dad others, mark O’Clair’s 17th birthday. By Paul Esmond
Legislative Gazette, May 9, 2005
would have been the 17th birthday of his son, Tom O’Clair stood
in front of the Capitol last Thursday waiting for friends and mental health
advocates to join him in a ceremony honoring Timothy O’Clair, who
committed suicide four years ago after struggling with depression.
O’Clair and others released balloons with his son’s name on
them and vowed to keep up efforts to get the Legislative to pass a bill
in Timothy’s name mandating employers to cover mental health services
in their insurance plans.
The Assembly and Senate appear to be close to a consensus on Timothy’s
Law, O’Clair said.
are trying to come up with creative ways to address that and it’s
not just both houses,” O’Clair said. “It’s both
parties in both houses that are all working together.”
He said he was hopeful an agreement could be reached before the Legislature
recesses in late June.
A major snag in the negotiations has been the effect the legislation could
have on small businesses, which may pay more for extended employee and
Michael Seereiter, a legislative lobbyist with the Mental Health Association
in New York, said Timothy’s law could be negotiated not to burden
small businesses. The costs of providing mental health coverage were not
much more than regular health plans many businesses offer. Worker production
and hours increase when mental health problems are dealt with proactively.
Seereiter shared O’Clair’s optimism over Timothy’s Law
the past two years we’ve really taken this from what quite honestly
was not a big issue,” Seereiter said. “Now we have (Senate
Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R Brunswick) saying, “we’ve
got to get something done on Timothy’s Law.”
O’Clair said he had his son on his mind during the day. He thanked
people for showing their support for the legislation.
going to get this law done,” he said. “Timothy’s Law
won’t be for naught.”
O’Clair and supporters stood in silence and watched for a few minutes
as the balloons drifted over the Capitol roof and into the sky.
Plain program promotes Timothy’s Law. By Linda Kellett
Amsterdam Recorder, May 13, 2005
PLAIN – Green ribbons with metallic lettering, sporting the message,
“Children’s Mental Health Matters,” were pinned to the
shirts or lapels of the two dozen or so people gathered on the front steps
of the Fort Plain Junior/Senior High School last Thursday.
“new life, new growth and new beginnings for the kids of our future,”
the green ribbons, as explained on the district’s web site, www.scoresup.com/Fortplain/,
show that district students care about those children with “emotional,
behavioral, social problems and/or addictions.”
wearers of the ribbons gathered near the end of the Mental Health Week
at the invitation of Mrs. Drews’ junior high special education class.
The class’ mission was to demonstrate support for the passage of
Timothy’s Law (Assembly bill A.2912 and S.1672 in the Senate), which
seeks to end discrimination in insurance coverage for people with mental
health and addiction needs.
legislation has been named in memory of Timothy O’Clair, a Schenectady
youth who would have celebrated his 17th birthday Thursday. Diagnosed
with depression, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity disorder and
oppositional defiance disorder, the son of Tom and Donna O’Clair
required mental health services that his parents struggled to provide.
March 16, 2001, Timothy hung himself in his bedroom closet. He was not
yet 13 years old.
Plain junior high student Josh Tomlinson was one of the featured readers
during the ceremony. He explained what it was all about: “It’s
about a kid that couldn’t get the help he needed,” Tomlinson
(Schenectady County Department of Social Services) put him in foster homes,
and he committed suicide. He needed mental help,” said Tomlinson.
continued, “His parents had dual custody (with the county). They
were no able to get the mental health he needed because his parents couldn’t
pay for it all.”
explained in a release from Timothy’s Law Campaign, “Under
current law, health insurance plans restrict the amount of coverage they
provide, or charge exponentially higher co-payments for mental health
and addiction services than they provide for other physical health services.
and Donna O’Clair struggled for nearly five years to get Timothy
the services he needed. However, due to these mental health services restrictions,
they were forced to ration the care that Timothy so desperately needed,”
Assemblyman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, the chief sponsor in the Assembly
of Timothy’s Law, was present at the observance. He said of the
proposed legislation, “It ends discrimination against consumers
impacted by mental health needs. I’m basically here today to tell
the Fort Plain students that I support their effort and their message
to end discrimination against those who struggle with mental illness and
mental health disorders.”
said the Assembly has passed this or similar bills “over and over
again. There was an effort to do parity before Timothy passed.”
who said he knew Timothy from Little League, said the problem in the past
has been that Assembly and Senate versions of the legislation have differed
quite substantially. “The Senate passed a narrower bill that is
not what the mental health community asked for. Our version allows professionals
to determine how to treat an individual,” he said, adding that it
Assembly measure has faced opposition from business and insurance lobbies.
Sen. Hugh Farley, R,C – Niskayuna, is a sponsor of the Senate’s
version of the bill, which he described as “high priority.”
The lead sponsor in the Senate is Sen. Thomas Libous, R,C – Binghamton,
explained why the two Houses haven’t been able to reach middle ground.
He said, “The bill passed in the Senate was supported by a lot of
mental health groups, but he (O’Clair) family preferred the one
in the Assembly.
difference (between the two bills) is the Senate bill had a concern about
cost. The excessive cost to small business owners might cause them to
drop their health insurance,” Farley said, noting that was one reason
the legislation didn’t make it to the governor.
said his version of the bill has been reintroduced in the Assembly. “We’re
raring to go,” he said. “We even did an income tax credit
to cover the businesses that might be impacted by the costs.”
thinks state residents will see resolution of the legislative issue this
event in the planning stages at the Fort Plain school is a Mental Health
Rivenburgh, an assistant teacher at the district who has helped to organize
Thursday’s event, is also involved with the walk-a-thon. She said
it would most likely be held the week of May 14. Its purpose is to increase
awareness of Timothy’s Law.
said this is the first year that students have gotten involved in this
way. “We took (students) to Lobby Day through Families Together
in New York state in February. We familiarized them with Timothy’s
she and school psychologist Laura Gordon attended a recent conference.
“That’s where we found out about the balloon-release idea
and talked with Timothy’s father,” Rivenburgh said.
the end of Thursday’s ceremony, yellow helium-filled balloons with
scrawled messages to Timothy lifted skyward.
can only imagine how it looks from Timothy’s perspective, seeing
hundreds, perhaps thousands of balloons rising from locations all over
New York state toward his vantage point in heaven,” Tom O’Clair
said of the statewide balloon release.
to the Editor.
Utica Observer Dispatch, May 4, 2005
your April 17 article, "Why Medicaid costs so much," medications
used to treat mental illness were identified as one of the main factors
in Oneida County's projected $63 million Medicaid budget.
mental health medications are costly. The science surrounding mental illness
has evolved exponentially - improvements in medications allow individuals
to live productive lives in our community.
the state implemented a drug formulary under Medicaid as part of this
year's budget, it specifically exempted many costly mental-health drugs.
They understand people with mental health needs are vulnerable, clinicians
have difficulty finding the right medication and dosage for an individual,
and new and improved drugs become available frequently.
mental health drugs are targeted to reduce Medicaid costs, the consequences
must be considered, including the financial and societal costs associated
with increased involvement of those with mental illness in the criminal
justice system and increased homelessness that will become more than we
will choose to bear.
CEO, Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.
the past two weeks, a series of articles, editorials and letters
to the Editor have been published in Syracuse’s Post-Standard
concerning mental health services for children. The debate is largely
about appropriate levels of inpatient mental health services for children
in Central New York. MHANYS continues to call for a reinvigoration of
the planning process through the mental health subcommittees of the
Community Services Boards in response to local resource concerns. Following
below is just a sampling of some of the thoughts that have been published
Unit For Children, Teens In The Works for 2009.
By James T. Mulder
Syracuse Post-Standard, May 12, 2005
County and SUNY Upstate Medical University officials have a plan to provide
additional psychiatric hospital beds in Syracuse for children and teenagers
who are frequently sent to out-of-town hospitals for care.
Upstate plans to create a child and adolescent psychiatric unit with about
16 beds to be located in either the north or west wing of University Hospital.
That unit, which must be reviewed and approved by state regulators, won't
open until 2009.
To address the immediate need for more inpatient services, the county
will ask the state to add eight more beds for children and adolescents
at Hutchings Psychiatric Center, a state hospital in Syracuse. Hutchings
currently has 24 beds for youngsters, eight of them temporary.
County and Upstate officials plan to unveil the initiative at a news conference
not acceptable for any child who needs inpatient psychiatric care to have
to leave Onondaga County to get care," said David Brownell, the county's
mental health commissioner.
More than 116 youths have been sent to hospitals in Buffalo, Rochester,
Ogdensburg, Utica and Saratoga Springs over the past year because there
are not enough psychiatric beds locally. The shortage was caused by last
year's closing of Four Winds, a private psychiatric hospital in Syracuse
that had 64 beds for youths.
County, hospital and business leaders tried in vain to come up with a
solution to the problem a year ago. The county and Upstate renewed the
effort after The Post-Standard reported last month on the growing
number of young psychiatric patients being shipped out of town. That story
triggered numerous letters to the editor from parents and mental health
advocates, many of them critical of Upstate for not including psychiatric
beds in its proposed children's hospital.
Upstate officials say there is no room in the 61-bed children's hospital
for psychiatric beds. The children's hospital will be part of a six-story,
$118.9 million addition scheduled to open in 2007.
While it won't be physically part of the children's hospital, the proposed
inpatient psychiatric unit will be administered, staffed and operated
as part of the children's hospital, according to Upstate's proposal.
The unit won't open until 2009 because space for it in either the north
or west wing will have to be renovated. That renovation cannot begin until
operations currently housed in those wings move into the six-story expansion.
The psychiatric unit may come to fruition before 2009 if other space on
or near Upstate's campus can be identified sooner.
The state Office of Mental Health, which oversees Hutchings, added eight
temporary beds at Hutchings after Four Winds closed. The agency had no
immediate comment on the latest proposal that it add eight more. But in
a recent letter published in The Post-Standard, Sharon Carpinello, the
state commissioner of mental health, said there is no need for additional
An analysis by the Hospital Executive Council, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield
and the county mental health department shows 30 additional beds are needed
to serve children throughout the 15-county Central New York region.
The state wants to close some of its psychiatric centers. It proposed
closing Hutchings in 2001 and 2003, but shelved the idea after the plan
sparked intense opposition.
Brownell said having a psychiatric unit at University Hospital will remove
some of the stigma families face when a child is hospitalized for a mental
illness. "There is a movement to integrate mental health into the
mainstream health-care system, and that's a good thing," Brownell
Norm Andrzejewski of the Onondaga Pastoral Counseling Center, which provides
mental health services locally, was pleased to hear of the effort by the
county and Upstate. "I hope it results in inpatient services being
available to kids quickly, wherever the venue," he said.
Because the proposed psychiatric unit at University won't materialize
for four years, the additional beds at Hutchings are crucial, according
to Ron Lagoe, executive director of the Hospital Executive Council. The
community needs to support the short-term Hutchings solution, he said.
"We can't just say, 'This is a nice idea.' We need to get behind
Cathy Munson, the mother of a teenager who's been hospitalized for psychiatric
care, is circulating petitions asking for the creation of more beds here.
The Liverpool woman started a group last year called Family Tapestry for
parents of children with mental and development disorders.
a community we need to step up," she said. "There are a lot
of children in desperate need."
must be proactive in kids' psychiatric care. Letter to the Editor
Syracuse Post-Standard, May 11, 2005
we are to believe the gist of Commissioner Carpinello's recent letter
to the editor concerning the repercussions of the closure of Four Winds
psychiatric hospital, the Office of Mental Health's new standard for acceptable
services for children is now whether or not someone complains about where
their child is placed for psychiatric care.
flies against the accepted wisdom of keeping children close to their families
in a time of emotional crisis, as Dr. Dewan of University Hospital compellingly
stated. Furthermore, the comments of parents deeply frustrated by their
children's placements in distant hospitals suggests that rather than waiting
for parents to register a complaint, OMH should be proactively conferring
with patients on the adequacy of placement determinations.
Office of Mental Health should not be lowering its treatment standards
merely to lower its bottom line. The eight temporary beds at Hutchings
Psychiatric Center should not only be made permanent, they should be expanded
to provide appropriate accessible inpatient treatment to all children
displaced by the closure of Four Winds.
Public Employees Federation, Executive Board Hutchings Psychiatric Center
PEF Council Leader Hutchings
of sufficient space a scandal in treatment of children and teens.
Letter to the Editor
Syracuse Post-Standard, May 1, 2005
am writing as president of the 500 members of Nami-Promise, the local
advocacy organization of family members and friends of persons diagnosed
with major psychiatric disorders. We wish to add our concern about the
critical lack of hospital beds for children and teens diagnosed with mental
illness in our community.
University Hospital is expanding its childrens' services, then it is not
acceptable to ignore the needs of children with psychiatric disorders.
Nami-Promise urges the administration of University Hospital to make it
a priority to find space in their hospital for children and adolescents
with psychiatric disorders.
is outrageous that there are only 24 inpatient beds for this population
in the entire Central New York region, and that Hutchings Psychiatric
Center is presently the only provider of inpatient services for children.
As the article by your reporter James Mulder indicated, because of this
lack of hospital beds, our children are being farmed out to hospitals
in Buffalo, Rochester, Ogdensburg and Oneonta. Being away from the support
of their parents increases the distress of already disturbed children.
As concerned family members, we have personally experienced how important
it is to be involved on a daily basis in the treatment of our children,
as advocates, as providers of support, and as necessary members of the
treatment team. Professionals may come and go, but the family is forever!
the lack of inpatient beds, the serious shortage of child psychiatrists,
and the inability of families to obtain support for their children's'
primary psychiatric needs is a sign of stigma.
illnesses are, in fact, physical illnesses characterized by, or resulting
from malfunctions and/or malformations of the brain. Serious psychiatric
disorders are no different than a stroke, or a tumor. There is fundamentally
no difference between these brain disorders and disorders which are now
under the present rubric of neurology. Patients are denied the support
they deserve simply because of the wrong brain disorder schizophrenia
instead of epilepsy, manic depression instead of Alzheimer's, major depression
instead of Parkinson's disease. Fewer than half of managed-care companies
define a suicide attempt as a medical emergency!
discrimination faced by all persons with psychiatric disorders is reflected
in the serious lack of services for children and teens in Syracuse. Nami-Promise
asks for the support of the community in urging University Hospital to
serve the outpatient and inpatient needs of these children.
Bliss-Ridgway of Syracuse is president of Nami-Promise Inc. (National
Alliance for the Mentally Ill Parents and Relatives of the Mentally Ill
Supporting Each Other).
for Kids: What Problem? Letter to the Editor by Sharon Carpinello,
State Commissioner of Mental Health
Syracuse Post-Standard, May 1, 2005
State data show sufficient space for children's mental health care
stories that appeared in this publication regarding children's inpatient
mental health services in Central New York have contained various inaccuracies
and I would like to take a moment to set the record straight.
a variety of ways, this paper has stated there is insufficient access
to children's inpatient mental health services in the area, and that the
state Office of Mental Health (OMH) has not been responsive to these needs,
and this is simply not the case. OMH has consistently and carefully monitored
the need for, and use of, children's inpatient mental health beds to ensure
inpatient care is available to all who need it.
a result, OMH has appropriately responded to needs as they occur, both
locally and statewide, including the temporary expansion of children's
beds at Hutchings Psychiatric Center in Syracuse. As we have done in the
past, we will continue to keep a very close eye on the Central New York
region to determine if further action is necessary, however, the data
we presently have suggests that there is adequate inpatient capacity at
date, neither OMH nor Onondaga County's Department of Mental Health has
received a single complaint from a parent regarding their child's placement.
Each placement is individually determined and consideration given to the
family area of residence. In some instances, reasons other than bed availability,
such as clinical need, health insurance, a family's living situation or
preference, will result in a child receiving care at a particular hospital
or in a particular location.
in treatment models have resulted in a reduced need for inpatient mental
health care and a reduced average length of an inpatient stay. Today,
the public mental health system works to provide quality services to children
in their natural settings at home, in school, and in the community with
friends. That's why OMH is focusing the growth of the children's mental
health system on evidence-based treatment in the community, which has
proven to prevent children from ever having to be admitted to a hospital.
does not, however, diminish the need for a quality inpatient system of
care. OMH remains committed to the provision of quality mental health
care to all children with mental illness, OMH will continue to closely
monitor inpatient need and capacity to ensure all children with mental
illness receive appropriate care. I encourage any patient with concerns
about their child's inpatient placement to contact the Onondaga County
Department of Mental Health or the New York State Office of Mental Health
OMH, we're working hard every day to ensure every New Yorker with a mental
illness receives the treatment they need in an appropriate environment,
and rest assured, we will continue to do that in Central New York and
across the state.
Carpinello is commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health,
based in Albany.
Void to Fill.
Syracuse Post-Standard, April 24, 2005
health providers in Onondaga County are bracing for a surge in children
needing psychiatric care. It happens almost every year around this time
as end-of-school-year pressures mount. Sadly, some of these youngsters
will end up far away from home in out-of-town hospitals. That's because
there aren't near enough beds for kids with mental illnesses here. Over
the past year, Syracuse's psychiatric emergency room placed 116 children
in hospitals in Buffalo, Rochester, Ogdensburg, Utica and Saratoga Springs.
That's about half the total number of local kids who needed hospitalization.
Out-of-town placement puts enormous stress on families. It also jeopardizes
children's chances for speedy recovery when families can't visit. It doesn't
have to be this way. University Hospital and other community groups had
been working on a plan to create a 30-bed children's unit housed at Hutchings
Psychiatric Center but run by University. The plan, however, fell through
for lack of state funding. Now, the mental health community is essentially
back to where it was a year ago when the Four Winds psychiatric hospital
in Syracuse was forced to shut its doors, wiping out 64 beds for kids:
lots of hand-wringing and brainstorming possible solutions. The state
Office of Mental Health, prodded by state Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse,
eased the crunch somewhat by increasing the number of kids' beds at Hutchings
from 16 to 24. But too many children are still being shipped out of town.
And there's no guarantee the additional beds will stay there; OMH considers
them temporary. Hutchings itself could be gone if Gov. George Pataki has
his way. The governor has been trying to close it down for years. Still,
the most sensible solutions involve Hutchings. When University was scouting
locations for its proposed center last year, it concluded that the Four
Winds building required too much renovation to bring it up to standard.
Hutchings, however, needed less extensive work. Besides, University's
psychiatric faculty and staff, including fellows in child psychiatry,
already participate in Hutchings' clinical programs.
short-term fix would be to add more "temporary" beds for kids
at Hutchings. But OMH refuses to even acknowledge there's a bed shortage
here. No doubt, DeFrancisco would have to twist a few more arms to get
them. The whole situation is unconscionable. The governor and legislators
can find plenty of money to stuff their pork barrels and keep their cronies
on the public payroll, but they can't come up with enough to ease one
of Central New York's most pressing problems. Next year, they must ensure
money for the University-Hutchings project is in the budget.
Do Children. Letter to the Editor
Syracuse Post-Standard, April 24, 2005
just finished reading the April 19 article "Children being sent elsewhere
for care" due to the closing of Four Winds. I understand how the
parent felt about her son leaving town for care.
son, who is 12, needed psychiatric help. We went up to CPEP (the Comprehensive
Psychiatric Emergency Program) and he ended up staying there for five
days while they tried to find him an inpatient bed somewhere. They were
only supposed to hold him for three days, but couldn't find anywhere for
him to go. I even had to spend the night there with him, because they
didn't have enough staff to watch a minor.
finally found him a bed at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, where
they had to transport him by ambulance. He spent another five days there.
Fortunately, I was able to go visit, but it took a toll on me. I had to
miss work and the money I had to shell out for gas to go to and from there
daily was outrageous.
he is getting therapy at Hutchings as an outpatient. I worry about him
needing to go for inpatient again. He wouldn't be able to go there, they
don't have the beds.
son worried about if I would come see him so far away. He wouldn't sleep
and called me all the time. Doctors at Strong had to medicate him so he
could sleep. He would just pace the halls, worrying about when someone
would come visit him.
cannot believe that the state can't somehow get more beds available for
children and teens with mental health issues. Wasn't there a way we could
have fixed or worked on the problems at Four Winds so we could have kept
it open? I think the state should really look into these issues more thoroughly.
I worry about all the children and teens out there that need the help.
Mental health is a serious issue. Does anyone seem to care about that?
next time, we remain,
Working to ensure available and accessible
mental health services for all New Yorkers