Listed below is a very powerful letter from Northern Rivers Family of Services CEO and MHANYS Board Chair, Bill Gettman, regarding the inequity in pay for the human service workforce.

MHANYS and our fellow behavioral health advocates are working on a several pronged approach to advocating for the increased needs of our agencies as well as the workforce. One of those prongs is to advocate that the State Budget include a 5.4% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in this year’s budget for behavioral health and the other human services sector. As Bill pointed out in this letter, the sector has not received this ‘legally required’ COLA for virtually the last fifteen years. Now that our workforce is in a crisis with huge turnover and vacancy rates, the time is
now for that 5.4% increase.

Look for upcoming actions on behalf of the 5.4% in the coming weeks.

Glenn

October 14th 2021

TO THE EDITOR:

During the pandemic, New York state human services workers stayed on the job, provided great service, and cared for the most vulnerable.

Due to both a robust and highly competitive economy that has increased private sector wages and insufficient reimbursement rates set by our elected officials, nonprofits are now unable to attract and retain the quality staff that our vulnerable citizens deserve.

Now, we see a steady stream of workers leaving or not even applying for community-based human services jobs. The result is many jobs are going unfilled, leading to a staffing shortage that has reached emergency levels. Some programs are facing vacancy rates as high as 60 percent. At the same time, the need has increased, particularly in behavioral health, and the
wait for services, ranging from addiction treatment to day programs for people with developmental disabilities, to youth and elderly support, is growing.

The low pay in the human services field is a major factor in the workforce crunch. Human services workers, most of whom are paid through contracts or rates established by and with the state government, represent 20 percent of our state’s workforce and deliver services to more than 2.5 million New Yorkers.

So what is the answer? Though promised an annual statutory Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) more than a decade ago by state lawmakers, the adjustment has been manually removed from the state spending package 9 out of the past 11 years. The state budget is the vehicle to meet the intent and requirements of the legislation.

We urge Governor Hochul to fund in her first budget as governor the legally required increases under the statue to ensure a viable human services system for all New Yorkers.

WILLIAM GETTMAN
CEO, Northern Rivers Family of Services
Albany

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