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COMMITMENT OF SEXUAL OFFENDERS ISSUE UPDATE: Over the past 24
hours, the issue of what to do with sexual offenders who continue
to pose a threat of re-offending after serving their prison sentence
has evolved very quickly.
Monday morning at 11 a.m., MHANYS joined with NAMI-NYS and the Association
of Board of Visitors to hold a press conference at which we outlined
our concerns with using the state’s mental health system for
the purposes of confining sexual offenders post-incarceration.
of mental health system: We have consistently maintained
that placing any individuals, including sexual offenders, who
do not have treatable, serious mental illnesses into psychiatric
centers is a misuse of the system. Psychiatric facilities are
designed to provide intensive treatment to individuals with
serious mental health needs to help them stabilize and return
to the community as soon as possible. They are not intended
to provide long-term housing or treatment to anyone other than
those with a serious mental illness.
Issues: People with psychiatric disabilities living in the
community are 12 times more likely than the general population
to be victims of violence. To house sexual offenders in psychiatric
facilities could place those individuals with serious mental
health needs, who are even more vulnerable than those in the
community, at significant risk. Furthermore, if many of the
sexual offenders who would be considered for civil commitment
are as dangerous as many contend, it would be far more appropriate
to house these individuals in facilities operated by the Department
of Correctional Services, which is primarily responsible for
detaining dangerous individuals.
Issue: If sexual offenders were to be housed in psychiatric
facilities, we would have serious concerns about siphoning off
of resources – both dollars and hospital beds –
from the existing, under-funded, mental health system. A large
percentage of these already scarce resources would be diverted
to pay the $200,000+ per year to house each sexual offender
in a psychiatric center, compared to the $40,000 cost of housing
someone in prison for a year.
Stigma Issue: Associating sexual offenders with individuals
with serious mental illness simply perpetuates the unfounded
myths about people with mental illness being violent and dangerous.
To the person on the street who knows little about mental illness,
such a policy would greatly increase the already overwhelming
stigma individuals with mental health needs face that hampers
their full recovery
of using psychiatric facilities, we recommended that the state examine
alternatives employed by other states to address this societal problem.
Specifically, we pointed to the experience of Florida which confines
sexual offenders in a facility adjacent to an existing correctional
facility, pointing to the availability of state correctional facilities
already closed or slated for closure that could be modified for
such purposes. In addition, there is the experience of the state
of Washington, in which a completely separate state agency is responsible
for all initiatives dealing with sexual offense, from prevention
services, to civil commitment, to post-release supervision. Also,
there is the experience of Texas, which utilizes an out-patient
civil commitment procedure that allows for additional incarceration
of sexual offenders if they violate any provisions of their release
hour later, at noon, the Senate Majority held a press conference
to discuss the issue of the extension of Megan’s Law - the
legislation that requires registration of sexual offenders living
in the community. At that press conference, Senate Majority Leader
Joseph Bruno indicated that he would be open to alternative locations
for the civil commitment of sexual offenders, rather than using
the end of the afternoon, the Assembly Majority released a new bill,
A.9282. As is the case with similar legislation put forth by the
Governor and Senate, we believe this legislation is flawed in that
it continues to place responsibility for sexual offenders on the
Office of Mental Health in a facility that “may be located
on the grounds of a state correctional facility.”
the end of the day and into the evening, rumors abounded about a
proposal coming from the Governor that would establish a completely
separate facility for housing sexual offenders. The main question
revolved around whether this would be under the auspices of the
Office of Mental Health (perhaps using a closed psychiatric facility
or a facility slated to close (i.e. Middletown PC)) or under the
Department of Correctional Services.
the Governor indeed did release a new proposal regarding the civil
commitment of sexual offenders. On the grounds of a former Department
of Correctional Services facility in Chemung County, previously
called Camp Pharsalia, the Governor is proposing to create a completely
separate 500 bed facility operated by the Office of Mental Health
exclusively for the civil commitment of sexual offenders. According
to the Governor’s press release, he will include $130M in
his executive budget proposal, to be unveiled next week, to construct
this facility. In addition, the Governor’s press release cites
an $80M annual operational cost at this facility, which would employ
more than 1000 staff.
Governor’s press release also states, “In the Executive
Budget, an additional $35 million will be made available for the
renovation of current OMH facilities to meet the on-going, short-term
needs associated with the demand to house and treat sexual predators.
Also, included will be a total of $27 million in new operating support
for OMH in connection with housing and treating sexual predators
in existing facilities in 2006-07.”
is somewhat mollified by the Governor’s new proposal in that
it addresses some of our most serious concerns about the safety
of individuals currently in the psychiatric centers. However, concerns
about the appropriateness of using the mental health system for
confining sexual offenders and the impact that such additional responsibility
will have on the Office of Mental Health’s budget remain.
this regard, we contend that funding for such a facility must be
completely separate from the funding used to operate the existing
mental health system, and must be specifically delineated in the
budget each year. In addition, any enacting legislation must include
language that requires the Office of Mental Health to regularly
report on any financial and program impacts that these additional
housing and oversight responsibilities for sexual offenders have
on the provision of mental health services.
while the Governor has identified $130M in additional resources
for the purposes of addressing the issue of civil commitment of
sexual offenders, we hope that he will also be able to find additional
resources for the vastly under-funded community mental health services
that help those with mental health needs achieve recovery.
article was also run in Long Island’s Newsday
fail to reach agreement on sex offenders. By Candice Choi
The Ithaca Journal, January 9, 2006
N.Y. (AP) -- The Legislature opened its 2006 session on Monday racing
against the clock to keep thousands of convicted sex offenders living
in communities from vanishing from the public registry beginning
far, the Senate and Assembly versions remain far apart. The Republican-controlled
Senate wants lifetime registration of all sex offenders, while the
Democrat-controlled Assembly seeks a temporary fix until Congress
sets a standard for a national data base.
current law, more than 3,500 sex offenders in New York are expected
to fall off the list by the end of the year.
Senate's bill would require lifetime registration for the most serious
cases, while the lowest level offenders would be able to petition
to be removed from the list after 20 years.
Assembly's moratorium meanwhile would keep offenders on the list
until March 31, 2007, giving Congress time to set a national standard
for a nationwide data base of offenders.
Assembly wants to wait to until March 2007 to see what the federal
government does," Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno said Monday.
"This has got to take place. It has to happen now."
Speaker Sheldon Silver called on the Senate to "stop hiding
behind a bill that would violate the provisions of federal legislation,
create confusion in keeping track of sex offenders and potentially
cause New York State to lose tens of millions of federal dollars."
offenders are likely to remain a key issue in the 2006 legislative
session, with the Senate expected to make additional proposals next
week regarding civil confinement. The emotional issue is also expected
to be part of campaigns in November, when every seat in the Legislature
is up for election.
are more than 21,000 registered sex offenders in New York state.
new legislation, Pataki in September ordered state authorities to
use existing mental health law to begin evaluating every sexually
violent predator in prison before their release to determine whether
they should face civil confinement in an institution.
groups for the mentally ill opposed the move, saying that the vast
majority of sex offenders have not been diagnosed with a mental
abnormality' has no basis in science - it's a political diagnosis,"
said Michael Seereiter, director of public policy for the Mental
Health Association of New York state.
Seay, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally
Ill in New York State, said there is already a waiting list of people
for the 3,900 mental institution beds in the state.
oppose the use of mental health institutions as dumping grounds
for sex offenders," he said.
estimated that placing sex offenders in mental institutions would
also cost the state $1.7 billion in the next five years.
Mental Health Association of New York State instead proposed housing
sex offenders in separate quarters on the grounds of correctional
facilities. This is already done in Florida, said Glenn Liebman,
chief executive officer of the association.
state Senate was looking at alternatives to civil confinement, Bruno
said, including housing sex offenders in available prison space.
over Megan's Law continues. By Jay Gallagher
Elmira Star-Gazette, January 10, 2006
Senate, Assembly remain deadlocked in feud over future of law
- Only 12 days before the expiration of a requirement that convicted
sex criminals notify the state about their whereabouts, the state
Assembly and Senate remained deadlocked Monday over how to extend
Democrats who run the Assembly and the Republican Senate majority
passed different bills that would extend the requirement, with each
blaming the other for the lack of unified action.
Senate passed a measure that would mandate lifetime registration
of sex offenders, rather then the current 10 years.
Assembly adopted a bill that would extend the current measure, known
as Megan's law, until March 2007, in anticipation of a new federal
law that would require either a 20-year or lifetime registration.
law, named after a 7-year-old New Jersey girl, Megan Kanka, who
was raped and murdered in 1994 by a convicted sex offender who had
recently moved into her neighborhood, requires that sex offenders
notify police of their whereabouts for at least 10 years after being
released from prison.
total of 168 offenders are slated to be dropped from the rolls on
Jan. 21 unless the law is changed. By the end of the year, 3,500
offenders could be dropped.
immediate legislative intervention, sexual predators will be allowed
to go about completely unnoticed in our communities," said
Laura Ahearn of Nassau County, executive director of Parents for
Megan's Law, a citizen group, who appeared at a news conference
with Senate Republicans and blamed the Assembly for lack of action.
"They could be coaching your child, selling them ice cream
or working in a toy store and parents and employees would never
know," she said.
two sides said the other was responsible for the deadlock.
long past time for the Senate to stop playing politics with public
safety," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan,
urging the Senate to pass the Assembly extension bill..
avoiding and ducking," Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno,
R-Brunswick, Rensselaer County, said of the Assembly's action. He
and other senators said Congress may not even adopt changes in reporting
requirements, and that there is no need to wait for federal action
before the state acts.
said the Senate vote "has nothing to do with politics, nothing
to do with posturing. It has to do with morality."
sides called for a conference committee, made up of lawmakers of
both houses, to convene later to try to bridge their differences.
The Legislature is due to be in session for only three more days
before Jan. 21.
Sen. George H. Winner Jr., a co-sponsor of the Senate legislation,
praised the Senate's action and said it sets the stage for negotiations
with state Assembly leaders and Gov. George Pataki.
have the opportunity to make Megan's Law stronger, more comprehensive
and more secure, and we should do it," Winner said in a news
release. "Convicted sex offenders should be required to register
for life. Assembly leaders shouldn't hesitate to require it."
Assemblyman Tom O'Mara, R-Horseheads, called for the Assembly to
act quickly to follow the lead of the Senate.
just a few days, over 150 offenders will be dropped from the registry,"
O'Mara said in a news release. "We need to act now, because
lifetime registration is the best way to protect New Yorkers from
these dangerous predators."
dispute comes amid a growing chorus for stricter penalties against
sex offenders. Both houses plan within the next few weeks to adopt
a measure that would mandate that sexual offenders continue to be
confined after their prison terms expire.
George Pataki ordered a dozen confined last year after the Assembly
refused to pass a measure to mandate the confinements. A judge later
ordered them released, saying the governor had exceeded his authority.
for the mentally ill Monday urged that the sex criminals not be
kept in psychiatric centers.
centers "should not be used to warehouse sexually violent felons,"
said J. David Seay, executive director of the National Alliance
on Mental Illness. He said putting such people in psychiatric hospitals
would be dangerous to patients, increase the stigma of being in
such a hospital and also cost $100,000 per year per felon.
said the offenders should be kept in facilities near prisons.
plan proves a tough pill. By Matt Pacenza
Albany Times Union, January 7, 2006
patients try to roll with the punches as Medicare program begins
-- Daniel Juliano drives 10 miles from his home in Troy so he can
get his prescriptions from a pharmacist he trusts. His dedication
to Lincoln Pharmacy on Delaware Avenue paid off this week.
Sunday the new Medicare prescription drug plan began coverage for
Juliano and millions of other Americans. Known as "Part D,"
it provides affordable medicines to seniors and the disabled.
with pharmacists, patients and advocates in the Capital Region show
that the program has gotten off to a tough start.
pharmacist Jala "Deen" Jainulabudeen filled Juliano's
prescriptions, he discovered the pharmacy was not officially signed
up to accept Juliano's plan. The matter will take days to sort out,
so Jainulabudeen went ahead and gave Juliano his medications in
hopes the pharmacy will get the money back later -- a step many
pharmacists report taking.
far the biggest group of people joining Part D since enrollment
began in the fall are those who were automatically added to the
program. About 650,000 New Yorkers are covered by both Medicare
and Medicaid, meaning they are over 62 or are permanently disabled,
which gets them in Medicare, and have very low incomes, which qualifies
them for Medicaid.
covered their prescriptions until this week, but now they've been
switched en masse to one of 15 private drug plans offering Part
D coverage to these "dual-eligibles."
are more than 6 million such people nationwide. Switching them all
at once was a terrible idea, said Craig Burridge, executive director
of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York. Gradually implementing
the program would have made more sense, he said.
the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the
individual health plans have been slow to respond to problems this
week, advocates and pharmacists report.
organizations that serve seniors have set up their own hot lines
to help people. Amy Button, who works with the New York StateWide
Senior Action Council, one of the biggest hurdles has been the lack
of knowledge among staff at the health plans and in government.
people within the system who are in charge of catching people's
questions have no idea what the answers are," she said.
rollout has seen several common problems: Some people have a letter
saying they've been enrolled, but the Medicare system doesn't know
it yet. Others have misplaced their cards or enrollment letters,
which can force a pharmacist or advocate to call up to 15 plans
to find which one the person is enrolled in.
the phones are jammed. Jainulabudeen spent 35 minutes on hold with
one plan on Thursday morning, until he had to abandon the call because
the batteries on his handset died. He said he is filling about one-third
of the prescriptions he normally does because of the added time.
spoke to one pharmacist in New York City who displayed exceptional
dedication. The pharmacist has a mentally ill customer who comes
in every Monday morning to get his psychiatric medications, which
the pharmacist gives him in a seven-day pill box so he takes his
man came in this week without any of the Medicare paperwork. Determined
to find out what coverage the guy had, the pharmacist called nine
plans until he found the right one -- a process that took him 2
pharmacist says, 'I had to. I'm his caretaker,' " Burridge
said. "I'm the only one who looks out for him."
muddle of Part D is illustrating a phenomenon that most people aren't
aware of: Pharmacists end up playing the role of social workers,
advocates and problem-solvers.
a routine part of the pharmacist's day, that's coming to light because
of the Medicare benefit," said Mario Zeolla, a pharmacist and
assistant professor at the Albany College of Pharmacy.
Patel of Crestwood Pharmacy on Whitehall Avenue in Albany also has
spent much of his workday on hold, but he said his customers are
handling the glitches well. He said he is comforted by the reminder
that Part D is offering cheap drugs to some people who had little
or no drug coverage before. "There's been a couple of people
in here already it has helped tremendously," Patel said.
authorities issued a written statement on Thursday emphasizing that
millions of prescriptions under Plan D have been filled this week
without incident. They also said they have taken steps to improve
their services to "dramatically reduce the wait time to get
the information pharmacists need to fill all their beneficiaries'
pharmacists report they are giving their customers a few days of
free drugs while the problem gets straightened out, a practice that
can get very costly. "Sometimes we get burnt," said Patel.
lays the blame for this week's logjam on President Bush and Congress,
who created a massive plan with little thought of the challenge
of a rapid implementation. As his phone has rung off the hook this
week with calls from baffled and frustrated pharmacists, Burridge
came up with an idea: Every member of Congress should have to spend
a morning or an afternoon behind the counter of a pharmacy, talking
to patients, trying to get answers on the phone.
drug plans start by causing big headaches. By Joy Davia
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, January 6, 2006
low-income people going without this week
Sayyeau's new Medicare drug plan hasn't worked very well for her
Monday her pharmacy had trouble confirming her enrollment, so she
went two days without some of her medication for diabetes and congestive
returned to Saratoga Pharmacy on Thursday, only to learn that the
drug plan didn't cover two of her six other prescriptions.
just go without," she said of the drugs for her emphysema and
on a fixed income. I can't come up with that money."
rollout of the first-ever Medicare drug plan, known as Part D, hit
many glitches in its first week, prompting delays in getting medication
to some seniors and the disabled.
week began with pharmacists struggling to confirm drug plan enrollments,
whether it was because of system problems or phone lines that were
busy or had wait times of an hour or more. Miscommunication among
federal officials, pharmacists and health plans fueled the confusion.
been a nightmare," said George Faris, owner of Faris Pharmacy
in Greece. Some pharmacists and federal officials said Thursday
that the situation had improved since the beginning of the week.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for example, added support
lines and reduced computer response times, said Larry Kocot, a senior
policy adviser. His agency works with health plans responsible for
the new benefit to make similar adjustments.
transition is never without challenges," said Kocot, adding
that pharmacists nationally have filled millions of prescriptions
through the new drug plan.
not saying there haven't been issues," he added. "But
as they've come up, we have addressed them."
surge in Medicare drug plan enrollment during the last week of December
prevented many drug cards and confirmation letters from getting
to people by Jan. 1, said agency officials.
Food Markets workers are "getting claims through," although
the process has been slowed by computer glitches and customers not
yet having drug cards, said Julie Lenhard, manager of managed care.
with any new program, it just takes some time," she added.
others said glaring problems still exist, especially for the population
officials are most worried about: "dual eligibles" such
as Sayyeau, who qualify for both Medicare and the low-income program,
people all were assigned to or selected Medicare drug plans, which
now require $1 or $3 drug co-payments that can no longer be waived,
as they often were before.
dual-eligible people can't afford co-payments, especially those
who take a dozen or so drugs monthly, said several local pharmacies
that serve big Medicaid populations. Or their new plans don't cover
have given out free medication in some cases," said Kristin
Goold, a pharmacist at Lima Pharmacy in Livingston County.
all the customers at Rochester's Saratoga Pharmacy on Lyell Avenue
are covered by Medicaid. On Tuesday alone, the pharmacy covered
$200 in co-payments, said pharmacist Dana Gignac.
had to absorb that cost," he said. He didn't know how much
longer he could do that, since he has added extra help to deal with
the drug plan.
problems started Monday, when not one customer with Part D got needed
medications: There were computer glitches, jammed phone lines and
customers showing up without any way of confirming eligibility,
among other problems.
health plans also told Gignac that they wouldn't abide by a "first
fill" rule, in which the health plan covers a dual-eligible's
30- to 60-day prescription for a drug not on the plan's covered
heard that anecdotally," said Selig Corman of the New York
State Pharmacists Society. "But I've heard it enough times
to believe that it's happening."
means dual-eligibles such as Sayyeau are going without their drugs
— which patient advocates and health officials fear will lead
to more costly and serious health problems.
for example, was in her doctor's office on Tuesday. She wasn't feeling
well after going without her medications.
some cases, things are going smoothly and pricing has been great
and people have saved money," said Goold of Lima Pharmacy.
for some, this has been an enormous headache."