MHANYS 2017 Legislative Agenda seeks to advance mental health policy in several broad domains including improving access to services and housing, increasing mental health literacy and securing a sufficient, quality workforce capable of serving the mental health needs of all New Yorkers.

This year’s agenda also reflects a commitment to preserve and enhance critical funding for New York’s mental health care system as part of this year’s State Executive Budget.  As New York pursues policies to assure that all workers are able to earn a living wage, it is imperative that the mental health workforce is not neglected or inadvertently harmed by such policies.  New York needs a healthy and sustainable mental health treatment and housing infrastructure staffed by a stable and capable workforce.  Building on the successful passage of mental health education in schools legislation in 2016, MHANYS will continue to grow citizenry informed and aware enough to assist people in need to successfully access mental health services in a timely manner.  Therefore, MHANYS will continue to advocate for resources to support mental health literacy for all New Yorkers with a special focus on those who teach our youth. Promoting mental health literacy facilitates early intervention, treatment and prevention while reducing stigma.

Executive Budget-Related Initiatives

Mental Health Workforce Investment:  The historic under-funding of mental health workers employed by non-profit agencies has caused significant recruitment and retention challenges over the years.  Last year’s Executive Budget provided a 2% across the board wage increase, which represents the only increase in wages for these workers in nearly 10 years.  As a result, the wage disparity has continued to grow larger and larger over time between workers employed by the state and those employed by not-for-profit agencies in similar jobs.  Minimum wage proposals for state workers and select sectors of the private labor market without commensurate wage increases for workers employed by non-profit agencies will further compound this disparity and jeopardize the viability of community-based mental health agencies.  MHANYS, therefore, is proposing a two-tiered approach to addressing both the historic wage disparity and the compounding of this differential from minimum wage increases.  This proposal will help to secure the health and viability of the non-profit mental health system of care.

Specifically, MHANYS is urging the Governor and the Legislature to provide:

  • An immediate investment in the mental health workforce in this year’s Executive Budget ($91 million) to address the historic lack of inflationary adjustments and to bring the existing workforce into closer wage alignment with the current state mental health workforce, and;
  • A commitment from the state to provide mental health workers employed by not-for-profit agencies with a minimum wage increase commensurate with wage increases being proposed for state workers and various workers in the private sector.

Housing:  Over the past several decades the funding for the various housing models in New York that are home to people with mental illness and those in recovery has not kept pace with inflation, rising administrative costs and the increasing demands of serving people with co-occurring conditions and the management of complicated medications regimens.  This trend of under-funding has put our valuable housing assets in jeopardy.  In response, MHANYS is advocating for targeted Executive Budget funding to sustain New York’s housing infrastructure including Community Residence-Single Room Occupancy (CR-SRO) housing, Supported Housing, Community Residences and SP-SROs (permanent housing with supports).  ($92.9 million)

Managed Care Readiness:  The transition in New York State from a primarily fee-for-service Medicaid payment system to managed care presents significant challenges for community-based non-profit providers.  While collectively these providers account for a substantial portion of the mental health services available at the community level, many lack experience in Medicaid billing or operating within a managed care environment.  These providers are an indispensable asset to the mental health system of care and will need financial assistance with start-up costs, technology assistance and expert consultation.  MHANYS believes it is in New York’s best interest to help these providers survive and thrive in the transition to Medicaid managed care and urges the Governor and Legislature to make funding available for this purpose.

Community Investment:  Continued reduction in state psychiatric hospital beds, which includes the reduction of census and possible long-term facility closures, is expected to result in a cost savings this year.  In 2013 MHANYS played a lead role in working with the state to secure commensurate funding for community-based mental health services such as supported housing, peer support, crisis intervention, and family engagement services.  MHANYS supports this funding in the Executive Budget and urges continued support for community investment.

Crisis Intervention Teams: Advocate for additional funding for statewide Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) including the expansion of programs beyond counties that have CIT.  This could be its own initiative or be included more broadly under funding for mental health literacy.

Veterans and Military Families:  Advocate for renewed funding to continue the Joseph Dwyer Peer to Peer Project and expand the program to include additional counties. We would also advocate for greater involvement of families within the funding model.

Geriatric Mental Health:  Building on the Geriatric Mental Health Act of 2005, MHANYS supports continued and expanded funding for the Geriatric Mental Health Services Demonstrations Grants Program and the Interagency Geriatric Mental Health Planning Council ($3 million).

Enhanced School-based Mental Health Services: Advocate for the funding of several enhancements for schools to support more school social workers and therapeutic after-school mental health services.

Mental Health Literacy Initiatives

Instruction in Mental Health in Teacher Colleges:  S.2465-C (Hamilton)/A.3686-C (Crespo) directs the Commissioner of Education to require teachers colleges to provide a course of instruction in mental health prior to each student’s graduation. The bill seeks to better equip future teachers with knowledge necessary to help identify students in need of mental health help.

Mental Health Education for Teachers:  Teachers are on the front line of educating our youth every day but often lack basic resources or knowledge about the signs, symptoms and available treatments for mental health disorders, or how to respond to a mental health crisis.  Teachers should be better equipped to recognize and respond appropriately to these signs and to have the knowledge necessary to also teach students about mental health.  MHANYS believes that educating teachers in public mental health compliments our proposal that students also need to learn about mental health.  We urge the Legislature to pass S.3550 (Hamilton)/A.4004 (Crespo).

Mental Health Awareness License Plate Legislation:  S.1210-C (Ortt)/A.6216-B (Gunther) would add Mental Illness to the list of currently available custom license plates in New York that support various causes such as Cancer Awareness, Autism Awareness, Organ and Tissue Donation and Diabetes among others. There would be an additional twenty five dollar fee attached to ordering these specialized plates that would go directly to the mental illness anti-stigma fund created as part of the mental health income tax check off.  Through the leadership of our Mental Hygiene Chairs, MHANYS and our colleagues will continue to raise awareness and fight the stigma of mental illness.  New York has become a leader in the field of public awareness about mental illness and a license plate bill raising awareness will continue that trend.

Funding Mental Health Literacy: Advocate for additional funding for training in Mental Health First Aid, Youth Mental Health First Aid and other versions of MHFA tailored for special populations such as older adults.

Justice & Forensic Mental Health Initiatives

Juvenile Justice:  Too often, youth who fail to get help become justice involved, further complicating their prospects for needed treatment.  This is why MHANYS supports “raise the age” legislation and why we seek special provisions for youth with mental health challenges who get into legal trouble.

Discrimination Against Parents with Psychiatric Disabilities: Advocate for the elimination of NYS Social Services Law (SSL), subdivision 4 of §384-b which discriminates against parents diagnosed with a psychiatric or developmental disability and can result in the termination of parental rights.

Justice Center Statute Amendment: Advocate that Adult Care Facilities (including adult Homes) that serve individuals with psychiatric disabilities and have licensed capacity less than 80 beds be subject to the powers, authority and protection of the Justice Center.  Currently they are exempt.